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London ; 
Oko. Standktno, 7 X- 9 FiNRiu'in- Stt^i:i-:t, Fj.O. 

Skconi) l.!r)i'riON.- Is9:2. 

Since 1877, when the Lord Chief Justice of England in his cliarge to 
the jury pronounced the discovery of Malthus to be an irj-efragable 
truth, a vast amount of literature has appeared upon the population 
question. The conclusion come to by many of the most recent writers 
has been in accord with that pithy expression of John Stuart Mill, 
where he sa^-s: "Every one has a right to live. We will suppose this 
granted. But no one has a right to bring children into life to be sup- 
ported by other people. Whoever means to stand upon the first of 
these rights must renounce all pretension to the last." Mr. Cotter 
Morison, a distinguished writer, says, in his work entitled The Service 
of Man: ''The criminality of producing children whom one has no 
reasonable probabilit}" of being able to keep, must in time be seen in its 
true light, as one of the most unsocial and selfish proceedings of which 
a man nowadays is capable. If only the devastating torrent of children 
could be arrested for a few j-ears, it would bring untold relief." Sir 
William Windej^er, of New South Wales, in a judgment delivered in 
1888, concerning a Malthusian work, says: " It is idle to preach to the 
masses the necessity of deferred marriage and of a celibate life during 
tlie heyday of passion. . . To use and not abuse, to direct and con- 
trol in its operation any God-given faculty, is the true aim of man, the 
true object of all morality." The Rev. 'Mv. Whatham, in a pamphlet 
entitled Neo-Mcdthitsianisni, says: "It becomes the duty of every 
thoughtful man and woman to think out some plan to stop or even 
check this advancing tide of desolation ; and the only plan, to my 
thinking, that is at all workable is artificial prevention of child-birth." 
Professor Mantegazza, Senator of Italy, says, in his Elements of Hygiene, 
to those affected with hereditary diseases : " Love, but do not beget 
children." The Rev. Mr. Haweis says, in Winged Words : " Over- 
population is one of the problems of the age. The old blessing of "in- 
crease and multiply,' suitable for a sj)arsely peopled land, has become 
the great curse of our crowded centres." INIr. ^Montague Cookson sa3's : 
'' The limitation of the family is as mucli the duty of married persons 
as the observance of chastity is the duty of those who remain un- 
married." Professor Huxley, the Bishop of Manchester, Mr. Leonard 
Courtney, Dr. William Ogle, and the Archbishop of Canterbury Have 
all recently endorsed the truth of the jNIalthusian law of population, 
which, as Mr. Elley Finch has truly said, "is. in company with the 
Newtonian law of gravitation, the most important discovery ever made." 

.?.? Sackville -street, Piccadllli/. T.nvdon, Tr, 
October, 1H92. 

Lie ■ 





A GREAT deal has been said in Courts of Law during the 
last two years about the Malthusian principle of popula- 
tion. The Lord Chief Justice of England has pronounced that 
it is an irrefragable truth, and that all parties who have studied 
such questions know, since the days of the Eev. T. R. Malthus, 
that the great cause of indigence is the tendency that popu- 
lation has to increase faster than agriculture can furnish food. 
And yet we have serious doubts whether one out of a thousand 
of the population of the British Islands knows who Mr. Malthus 
was, or, indeed, whether he was a Roman, or a citizen of mo- 
dern Europe, at all. It is, therefore, we are convinced, very 
important to let his countrymen know that Thomas Robert 
Malthus was an Englishman ; that he was a denizen of the 
19th century ; and that he lived most part of his life in the 
neighbourhood of London, 

Thomas Robert Malthus was bom at the Rookery, near 
Dorking, in Surrey, in 1766. Those who are interested in the 
matter will do well to make a pilgrimage, as we have done, to 
the romantic birth-place of the discoverer of the law of popu- 
lation, the greatest (if we measure discoveries by their effect 
on human happiness) ever made. Malthus' father was an able 
man, a friend and correspondent of the noble and unfortunate 
J. J. Rousseau, and one of his executors. Thomas Robert was 
his second son, and, as a boy, evinced so much ability that his 
father kept him at home and superintended his education him- 
self. The son repaid his father's care, and had awakened in 
him that spirit of independence and love of truth which were 
ever afterwards the characteristics of his mind. He had two 
tutors, in addition to his father, both men of genius — Richard 
Graves and Gilbert Wakefield — the former the author of the 
*' Spiritual Quixote," the latter the correspondent of Fox, and 
well known in his day as a violent democratic writer and 


In 1784, when 22 years of age, T. E. Malthus weni, to Cam 
bridge ; and, in 1797, became a Fellow of Jesus Collegb 
After this he took orders, and for a time officiated in a small 
parish near his father's house, in Surrey. In 1798, appeareu 
his first printed work, which may be seen in the British Mu- 
seum. It is entitled " An Essay on the Principle of Population, 
as it affects the future Improvement of Society ; with Eemarks 
on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, Mr. Condorcet, and other 

The writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, from whom these 
details of Malthus' life are taken, informs us that the book was 
received with some surprise, and excited considerable atten- 
tion, as beinoj an attempt to overturn the jDrevalent theory of 
political optimism, and to refute, upon philosoiDhical principles, 
the speculations then so much in vogue, as to the indefinite 
perfectibility of human institutions. In this remarkable essay 
the general principle of population, which Wallace, Hume, 
and others had very distinctly enunciated before him, though 
without foreseeing the consequences that might be deduced 
from it, was clearly expounded ; and some of the important 
conclusions to which it leads in regard to the probable im- 
provement of human society were likewise stated and explained; 
but his illustrations were not sufficient, and he, therefore, 
sought in travel further confirmation of his theories. 

In 1799 he visited Norway, Sweden, and Eussia, and, after 
the peace of Amiens, France ; in which countries he busily 
collected all the data he could bearing upon his researches. 
In 1815 he was api3ointed to the professorship of political 
economy and modern history at Haileybury, near London, 
which chair he occupied until his death in 1834, at the age of 
70. He left behind him one son and one daughter. The son 
is, we believe, still alive, or was so a few years ago. 

The account given by Mr. Malthus of the way in which he 
discovered the law of population is to this effect. His father, 
Mr. Daniel Malthus, a man of romantic and somewhat san- 
guine character, had espoused warmly the doctrines of the 
great writers Condorcet and Godwin, with respect to the per- 
fectibility of man, to which the sound sense of the son was 
alwaj'^s opposed ; and when the subject had been very fre- 
quently discussed between them, and the son had always 
objected to Godwin's views, on account of the tendency of 
population to increase faster than subsistence, he was asked by 
his father to put down in writing his views on this point. The 
result was the Essay on Population ; and his father was so much 


struck with the value of the arguments, that he recommended 
his son to publish it. 
" In the first edition of this work he principally deals with 
the views of Condorcet and Godwin ; but on his return from 
the Continent, where he had collected ample materials, the 
state and prospects of the poor became the prominent features 
of the second edition, which appeared in two volumes, in 1805. 

The latter years of the life of Mr. Malthus were passed in 
the midst of his family, in the performance of his professional 
-and professorial duties, and in the editing of the various editions 
of his work and other treatises on political economy. In pro- 
portion as the views enunciated in his Essay on Population 
l3ecame known, his fame was extended. Most of the statesmen 
of his time, and the whole of the eminent political economists 
of Great Britain, adopted his opinions ; and thus the waj^ was 
prepared for the adoption of a better system of poor-law relief 
than the one which at that time was ruining England. On the 
•Continent, too, and indeed wherever science extended, his views 
were adopted by the foremost writers on political economy. 
He was elected a member of the most eminent scientific 
societies abroad, such as the Institute of France and the Royal 
Academy of Berlin. At home, he founded the Political 
Economy Club and the Statistical Society. 

In the bther departments of the science of Political Economy 
Malthus was a distinguished writer. He was, in company with 
Dr. West, a promulgator of the theory of rent, first mooted, it 
seems, by a Scotchman, Dr. Anderson, a contemporary of Adam 
Smith. Ricardo, the eminent political economist, has acknow- 
ledged his deep obligations to Malthus, for his exposition of 
this theory. 

The great Principle of Population has been examined care- 
fully and accepted as a splendid discovery by the master minds 
of all countries since the discoverer's death in 1834. To say 
that it is looked upon as axiomatic by the two Mills, by 
Ricardo, Senior, Cairnes, Alexander Bain, Gamier, Bertillon, 
Favvcett, William Ellis, and William Hunter, is to say that its 
truth has been fully proved to the ablest thinkers on social 
science and on political economy that this and other European 
States have produced. 

^ It was, before the days of Malthus, the almost universal be- 
lief of mankind that the wealth of a country was in proportion 
to its population. Statesmen, poets, and philanthropists were 
<Jonstant in their endeavour to secure as rapid a multiplication 
•of the citizens as possible : and, up till the publication of bit 


essay — indeed, long after that event, it was tlie custom in many 
European States for the Government to give prizes to such 
parents as had given birth to and reared a more than averagely 
large family of children. Such a law, indeed, was not abro- 
gated until about 25 years ago in Sardinia. 

Mr. Malthus clearly exposed the eiTor of such teaching. He 
showed that, such is the immense power of increase in the 
human family, it is probable that, were food plentiful enough, 
population might double in some fifteen years, or even less. 
With incredible assiduity he read and examined ancient history 
and the statistics of European countries and their colonies, for 
the confirmation of his theory. He found, for example, that 
after the great pestilences which had from time to time ravaged 
European states, the surviving population had been so well 
fed and housed that it had been enabled to replace the blanks 
left by deaths usually in a very few years — in twenty years 
in several instances. 

Taming to the colonies of Great Britain in the United 
States, Malthus confirmed what the great pioneer of all 
progress in political economy, x\dam Smith, had noted, namely^ 
that the colonists of those States had doubled since their settle- 
ment in considerably less than twenty-five years in some cases, 
without taking into account any fresh immigration. In an 
article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, written by Malthus, 
he gives most accuratelj'- the figures of the doubling of the 
population of the United States from the year 1790 until 1820 ; 
and shows, from statistics, that very few immigrants had arrived 
from Europe during this period. Making ample allowance 
for the contingent for such immigration, Malthus showed that, 
from 1790 to 1815, the population of the States had more than 
/.doubled. Hence he was led to the following expression : — 
* " Population, when unchecked, goes on doubling every twenty - 
yf five years, or increases in a geometrical ratio." 

He next shows that the tendency of agricultural produce fit 

^ for the food of man is to increase very much more slowly than 

yjl man could increase. This has been termed the ^'law of agri- 

1 cultural increase," and is very easily understood by taking ao 

example. Let us grant that the average quantity of wheal 

that can be grown at present on an acre of ground in England 

is thirty bushels. It would be clearly impossible to suppose that. 

in 25 years 60 bushels per acre could be produced ; in 50 years, 

120 bushels, and so on. Whereas, the tendency of population 

lo double in from 12 to 25 years is clear enough, when it is 

remembered that the human female commences to be capable- 


of reproduction at about fifteen and continues so until forty- 
five, in this climate. Were European women to marry as 
•early as the Hindoo women do, there would be a possibility, 
if food were forthcoming, of a doubling of the population in 
«ome fifteen years or less. 

Mr. Malthus closely examined the statistics of European 
nations when he wrote in 1805. Before the commencement 
<of this century, he found that the time taken for doubling of 
the populations of Europe was often as great as some five 
liundred years. This remark had been anticipated by Adam 
•Smith, who had all the materials, had he sufficiently reflected 
■on them, to have written accurately on the Population Question, 
.since he also was acquainted with the rapid doubling of civi- 
lised peoples, when they had been conveyed to new and fertile 
-colonies such as the United States. Here, then, was the con- 
clusion of Malthus, which is perfectly obvious when it is clearly 
stated. Whenever population, in Europe or elsewhere, fails to 
double itself as rapidly as it does in new countries, it must be 
•checked in some way or other. Proceeding a little further, he 

Ids that it must either be checked by there being fewer births 

>r a greater number of deaths. Whatever tends to produce a 

':^maller number of births is included by Malthus among the 

Ipreventwe checks to population : whatever leads to a greater 

number of deaths, among the positive checks. 

His travels through Europe were mainly directed towards 
"the inquiry as to what kind of check was prevalent in each 
European state. In ancient times, he saw that the positive 
^checks to population had everywhere extensively prevailed. 
Plagues and famines, with war and infanticide, had been the 
-checks in Greece and Eome, as now in China and Hindostan. 
Jn the Europe of his day, all of these positive checks existed, 
in greatly diminished proportions, indeed, but still they were 
far from unknown. The extreme prevalence of celibacy, 
liowever, struck him in all the civilised states of Europe which 
Jie then visited. He noticed that, in many parts of the Con- 
tinent, where the death-rate was lower than elsewhere, it was 
the custom for the women to marry very late in life. In one 
•canton of Switzerland, where comfort and longevity were most 
notable, Malthus found, on enquiry, that it was the custom for 
■the spinsters to delay their bridal day till long after the age of 
thirty. On the other hand, wherever marriages were early, 
and the birth-rate was high, he found on investigation that 
the death-rate was also above the average. 

From this experience of his, he was led to the conclusion 


that early marriage, as a rule, was certain to lead to poverty 
and the positive checks to population ; and, therefore, in hi& 
practical maxims for improving the condition of the poorer 
classes, he looked forward solely to the exercise of that celibacy^ 
which he had found so often accompanied by long life and 
material comforts. 

Had Mr. Malthus lived at this moment, he would have 
been aware of the remarkable fact, that the French peasantry 
of modem days have, simply from experience and without any 
theory, become acquainted with the results of his enquiries,, 
that a rapid increase of births leads inevitably to poverty and 
early death. To quote from the most celebrated of French 
statists, M. Maurice Block, the artizans of towns, and peasant 
proprietors of whole districts of France, are accustomed tO' 
limit the size of their families to two children ; and thus, al- 
though France is the most noted for its number of married 
couples of all European States, it is also the country in all 
Europe which is the least rapid in the increase of its popula- 
tion. The population check in France, then, Malthus, had he 
lived, would have found to be, not celibacy, but the voluntary 
bmilaiion of families, in the midst of a married and most moral 
and domestic community. The great philanthropist, who was- 
so distinguished for his charming temper and amiability, could 
not have failed, we may rest assured, to have, with J. S. Mill, 
Garnier, and Sismondi, given the preference to the moderrk 
French checks to population over all others. 

In closing this chapter, we should like to refer to a few ad- 
ditional biographical circumstances of Malthus' life. They 
have been supplied by Mr. Eobert Porter, of Beeston, Nott'5., a 
gentleman well known as an admirer of the great discoverer,, 
and as an expositor of his views. "The Reverend Henry 
Malthus," Mr. Porter writes, in February, 1879, •* the only 
son of Thomas Robert Malthus, lives at Effingham. The 
only daughter, Emily, was living at Bathwick Hill Villa,. 
Bath, some time back. She married Captain Pringle. I have- 
many letters from her, as also from her mother, who was 
living with her in 1862, in her 86th year, when she had 
a photograph taken from the family portrait, and sent to me 
with a scrap of his MS. handwriting. I send you this to 
see and peruse. I wrote to Mrs. Pringle about the memoir of 
her Father in his Political Econoniy, saying there was much of 
Mr. Daniel Malthus in it, but nothing about his mother, from 
whom I thought Mr. Malthus had received his best qualities. 
In letter 3 you will see the reply, and I think will be in- 


terested to read it. Dr. Anderson really discovered the Law of 
Eent, as j^ou may see in Vol. 6 of I'he Bee^ pp. 292 — 300. — 

The information given by Mrs. Pringle, and referred to in 
the above letter to Mr. Robert Porter, is as follows. After 
referring to Mr. Ellis' teachings in the Friend of the PcopUy 
written about the year 1860, she speaks of the personal ap- 
pearance of her father as follows: " The likeness (photograph 
sent) is excellent, and to enable you to form a complete idea 
of his personal appearance, I must tell you that his complexion 
was fair, with light and curling hair, led whiskers, and bright 
darkish blue eyes. His height was five feet eleven inches, 
and a very well-formed figure." Another granddaughter of 
Mrs. Malthus, the mother of Thomas Robert, says that Daniel 
Malthus, the father, although refined, was a selfish man. 
His wife was devoted to him, and although not a talented 
woman, was accomplished, and educated her own daughter 
without a governess. All her children were devoted to her, 
especially her eldest son. Thomas Robert was, perhaps, more 
attached to his father ; but his mother's amiabilit}^ descended 
to him, for he was never known to say a harsh word of any- 
one, although more attacked than any writer has perhaps ever 
been. It ajjpears that Malthus died, not of heart disease, but 
of bronchitis. His mother's maiden name was Graham, and 
she was of an old Scotch family. Here is one sentence to de- 
pict her character: — "In short, I imagine her gentle, unob- 
trusive, loving, romantic, and perfectly unseltish ; but not the 
sort of person to form her suns' characters, though to attract 
their affections.'* 




COMPARATIVELY few students of Political Economy at 
the present day appear to read Malthus' celebrated Essay 
in the original. This, in our opinion, is a great mistake. That 
work is as readable now as it was when it attracted such well- 
merited attention at the commencement of this century ; and 
the statistics given by the learned author become even more 
valuable than ever, owing to the important additions made to 
them of. recent years by the various modern writers on Social 

The third edition of Malthus' essay, which appeared in 
1806, is now before us : and consists of two volumes of about 
one thousand pages in all, of large type, full of the most inter- 
esting accounts ever given of the manners and customs of the 
' different nations of ancient and modern tmes. The first vo- 
lume is divided into two books. In Book I. there are fourteen 
chapters, the first of which states the Law of Population, or 
the te7idency which population has to increase more rapidh^ than 
the means of subsistence. The second chapter treats of the 
general checks to population, and the way in which these 
operate. Then come three most interesting chapters^ on the 
checks to poj^ulation among savage nations, followed by one 
on those obtaining among the ancient inhabitants of Northern 
Europe. Chapter seven gives an account of the checks exist- 
ing among modern pastoral nations ; and this is followed by 
an account of the checks in Africa, and Northern and Southern 
Siberia. Then follows a most interesting account of the brutal 
checks to population in Turkey, and the lamentable starvation 
checks of Hindostan and China. Book L ends with chapters 
on the checks to population among the ancient Greeks and 

In Book 11. there is a most important account given by Mr. 
Malthus of the results of his extensive travels in Europe, in 
1799 and after years, with details of the checks to population 
existing in Norway, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, 
France, England, Scotland, and Ireland. 


If those persons who at present think that the Malthusian 
law of human increase has been found by subsequent investi- 
.^ation to be erroneous, could only be induced to read Mr. 
Malthus' essay in the original, they would soon find that all 
these objections have been anticipated in that celebrated work, 
and perhaps acknowledge, with Mr. J. S. Mill and other econo- 
mists, that the truth is "axiomatic,'' or no longer requiring 
•discussion. In the last pamphlet, indeed, which we have seen, 
•dedicated to one of the most deservedly jDopular of modern 
British authors, Thomas Carlyle, the writer, like Mr. Carlyle 
himself, sj^eaks as if the law of Malthus had been refuted ; but, 
■as usual in such cases, it is clear that the writer has not the 
least idea of. what the celebrated Essay on Population was 
written to prove. 

In his first chapter, Malthus observes that Euler, a great 
mathematician, had calculated that, on the supposition of such 
-a moderate amount of mortality as one in 36 (which is con- 
•fiiderably higher than our present mortality of one in 42 in 
England), and with the further supposition of the births being 
to the deaths as three to one (a ratio which seems nearly to hold 
^•ood, at present, in New Zealand), the period of doubling a 
population would be only 12f years ; and Sir William Petty, 
in his work on Political Arithmetic, supposed a doubling to be 
possible in some ten 3^ears. 

Malthus compares this te?idency with the actual increase of 
man in such countries as China and Japan. He observes that 
it may fairly be doubted whether the best directed efforts of 
human industry could double the agricultural produce of China 
even once, in a7iy number of years. The difference between 
the time of doubling, which has taken place of late in 
«ome twenty or thirty years, in North America, and in our 
Australian colonies, when compared with the slow increase 
•of the Chinese population, gives the most complete view of 
•the case that can be obtained. 

In countries which are naturally healthy, and where the 
preventive check is found to prevail, too, with considerable force, 
■the positive check, as Malthus observes, will prevail very little, 
and the mortality will be small ; but in every country some of 
the checks are and will always continue to be, in constant 
operation : so that mankind has only a choice of evils, for we 
•cannot possibly escape from sof?ie of the population checks, 
which are inevitable. 

In his third chapter our author reviews the population checks 
in the lowest stage of human society ; and shows how impos- 


sible it is for such unfortunate peoples as the natives of the- 
Tierra del Fuego, or of Van Diemen's Land, to increase rapidly 
in numbers, owing to their extreme ignorance of the laws of 
nature. In New Zealand, Captain Cook found the checks to 
population to be war, and starvation so great as to prompt to- 
cannibalism, in a countrj'- where, as it is at present colonized 
by a civilized people, the deaths seem not to exceed fifteen per 
1,000 annually, and population doubles in about twenty years 
or less, without counting immigrants. 

In Mr. Malthus' day, there still existed large numbers of 
those unfortunate races of American Indians, which are now so 
rapidly disappearing in the modern *' struggle for existence" 
with civilised Europeans. Then, as now, these tribes lived 
principally by hunting and fishing, most narrow modes of 
subsistence. The mortality of infants among such tribes was 
always enormous, and the Jesuit missionaries mentioned how 
that the Indians of South America were subject to perpetual 
diseases for which they knew no remedy ; scarcely ever did- 
the individuals of such tribes attain to an advanced age ; and 
the checks to population among them were chiefly of the posi- 
tive kind — plagues, starvation, brutal wars, and disease. The- 
North American Indians, too, lived in such a state of filth and 
over-crowding in their huts, that every infectious disease car- 
ried off vast numbers. Cannibalism, according to Captain Cook^. 
as seen in New Zealand and other islands, originated in the 
fearful privations experienced by such peoples when their 
numbers were pressing on the food supplies. 

And here let us quote Malthus' own words, — *' It is not that 
the American tribes have never increased sufficiently to render 
the pastoral or agricultural state necessary to them ; but, from 
some cause or other, they have not adopted in any great degree 
these more plentiful modes of procuring subsistence, and there- 
fore cannot have increased so as to become populous. If 
hunger alone could have prompted the savage tribes of America 
to such a change in their habits, I do not conceive that there 
would have been a single nation of hunters and fishers re- 
maining; but, it is evident, that some fortunate train of 
circumstances, in addition to this stimulus, is necessary for the 

In chapter V., our author gives a curious account of how 
population was checked in the islands of the South Seas. It i». 
among such islands as these (and, indeed, the British islands^ 
in ancient times resembled them greatly), that we trace the 
origin of many of the singular institutions destined to retard 


the rapid increase of mankind — cannibalism, late marriages,, 
the conisecration of virginity, and ferocious punishments against 
8uch women as reproduce the species at too early an age. Cap- 
tain Cook found such a constant state of warfare existing among 
the various tribes in New Zealand, that each village in its turn 
applied to him to assist them in destroying the others. In his 
third voyage he adds that warlike ferocity is so constant *' that 
one hardly ever finds a New Zealander off his guard, either by 
night or day." 

In Otaheite and the Society Islands, again, where the size of 
the islands was too small, and the knowledge of navigation 
acquired b}^ the islanders too scanty to make it possible for 
population to increase rapidly, all sorts of sufferings were seen 
among the poorer classes of the people ; the richer classes, 
however, seemed, according to Captain Cook, to check their 
own increase by having recourse to the fearful practice of in- 
fanticide, to an enormous and unparalleled extent. Even with 
these checks, however, population, in the South Sea Islands, oc- 
casionally pressed so hard on subsistence that animal food be- 
came very scarce in certain seasons, and such destructive wars- 
ensued that Captain Vancouver, on visiting Otaheite, in 1777, 
and again in 1791, found that most of his friends of 1777 were 
dead, having been killed in the wars. Prostitution, and de- 
struction of female infants, were extremely common in Otaheite 
in Captain Cook's time. 

In taking a general review of that department of human 
society, classed under the name of savage life, the only advan- 
tage Malthus notices is the possession of a greater degree or 
leisure by the mass of the people, than that possessed by those 
of civilised countries. " There is less work to be done, and^ 
consequently, there is less labour. When we consider the in« 
cessant toil to which the lower classes, in civilised societies,, 
are condemned, this cannot but appear to us a striking ad- 
vantage ; but it is probably overbalanced by greater disad- 

This remark of Mr. Malthus shows us, to a certain extent, on. 
what J. J. Rousseau founded his belief as to the superior hap- 
piness of the state of nature over the civilised. Had Eousseau 
read the Essay on Population, he could not, w^e believe, have- 
failed to perceive that the evils of civilisation are almost solely 
due to the universal want of knowledge of the Population Law. 
The late marriages, and prostitution, so bitterly inveighed 
against by that author, are merely the sorrowful population 
checks of most modern civilised nations, that have passed into- 


the pastoral and agricultural stages of society, and have not 
jet proceeded far enough to control the enormous fecundity of 
the race by less painful and more thoughtful expedients than 
those which Jean Jaques Rousseau so clearly perceived and 
so powerfully denounced in the French society of the reign 
-of Louis XV. 

After speaking of the positive checks to population which 
"have been so universal among savage nations, Mr. Malthus 
j)roceeds in chapter vi. to treat of the checks which prevented 
increase among the ancient inhabitants of the North of Europe. 
Astonishment has often been expressed at the the hordes of 
warriors that, at various periods of the decay of the Eoman 
Empire, were poured down upon it from the Northern na- 
tions. Mr. Malthus explains, with great clearness, that, 
wherever the customs of such nations as composed the 
immigrants were such as to conduce to health and early 
marriage, the immense fecundity of the race fully accounts 
for these crowds of immigrants so rapidly succeeding each 
other until the destruction of Rome ensued. Machiavel, in 
the beginning of his History of Florence, says : " The people 
who inhabit the northern ]3arts that lie between the Rhine 
and the Danube, living in a healthful and prolific climate, 
often increase to such a degree, that vast numbers of them are 
forced to leave their country and go in search of new habita- 
tions. These emigrations proved the destruction of the 
Roman Empire." 

There can be no doubt that this is a true account of the 
Tvay in which poverty and over - rapid reproduction cause 
-emigration in ancient and modern times ; and we cannot help 
regarding the present warlike policy of England and Germany 
-as signs of a growing over-population in both of these States, 
which tempts the proletaire members of the governing classes 
to seek ever fresh territory, and makes the other classes of 
society so tolerant of such unjust conduct in their rulers. In 
iact, it may be truly said that the adoption of neo-Malthusian 
views is the only really revolutionary measure, and the only 
safeguard of nations against wars of conquest or intestinal 

In chapter vii. Malthus speaks of the checks to population 
among modern pastoral nations. Pastoral nations, although 
not so poor as hunting nations, are, of course, far more unable 
,to acquire wealth than nations that have adopted agricultural 
pursuits. Hence, population increases but slowly in such 
communities, and they are often on the verge of famine for 


lengthened periods. Volney, in his travels, says, that the 
pastoral tribes of the iVrabian desert deny that the religion of 
Mahomet was made for them. " For how," they say, *' can 
we perform ablutions when we have no water ; how can we 
give alms when we have no riches ; or what occasion can 
there be to fast during the month of Kamadan, when we fast, 
all the year ? " 

And yet it seems that in Arabia, as elsewhere, the direct 
social encouragements to population are very great. A 
Mahometan is taught that one of the great duties of man is to- 
procreate children to glorify the Creator. But, as Mr. Malthus 
truly says, *' While the Arabs retain their present manners, 
and the country remains in its present state of cultivation, the 
promise of paradise to every man who had ten children would 
but little increase their numbers, though it might greatly 
increase their misery.'' 

The checks to jDopulation existing in Africa seem to be 
chiefly of the positive kind. Incessant warfare, with death by 
famine or epidemics, are described by the early travellers on 
that Continent, Park and Bruce, as carrying off whole tribes. 
Park states that, independently of violent causes, the struggle 
for food is so great in most African states, that longevity is 
rare among the negroes. At forty, most of them become 
grayhaired and covered with wrinkles, and but few of them 
survive the age of fifty-five or sixty. There was, in his day, 
but little difficult}^ in obtaining slaves in times of famire in 
Africa, as even free negroes were often so pressed with huager 
as to entreat, according to Dr. Laidley, to be put on his slave- 
chain, to save them from starvation. Bruce reports that, in 
many of the tribes, women begin to be mothers at the age of 
eleven : and to such a life of privation and care does this rapid 
reproduction lead, that he speaks of the women in some States 
near Abyssinia as becoming, at the age of twenty-two, '' more 
wrinkled and deformed by age, than an European woman is 
at sixty." 

Mr. Malthus, after a very curious account of the checks to 
population in Northern and Southern Siberia, then passes on 
in chapter x., to treat of the Turkish Dominions and Persia, 
and his remarks are especially interesting to our modern 
politicians. The fundamental cause of the low rate of increase 
of population in Turkey, he truly remarks, is undoubtedly the 
nature of the Turkish government. Its tyranny, its feebleness, 
its bad laws, and worse administration of them, with the 
consequent insecurity of property, throw such obstacles in the 


way of agriculture, that the means of subsistence are necessarily 
decreasing yearly, and with them, of course, the number of 
people. It is calculated at the present day that population 
would double only once in 555 years in Turkey, owing to the 
positive checks caused by its wretched government. The 
population of modern Turkey is about 28 millions, or only 
some 16 jDersons per square mile ; and, in 1876, it was stated 
in governmental reports that the population of the empire was 
fast declining, and its cultivated lands falling into the con- 
dition of deserts. In Europe, as in Asia, we are informed by 
Malthus, it was the maxim of Turkish policy, originating in 
the feebleness of government, and the fear of popular tumults, 
to keep the price of corn low in all the considerable towns. 
" When Constantinople is in want of provisions, ten 
provinces are jDerhaps famished for a supply. At Damascus, 
during the scarcity of 1784, the people paid only one penny 
farthing a j)Ound for their bread, whilst the peasants in the 
villages were actually dying with hunger." 

As to the checks to population in Persia, the dreadful con- 
vulsions to which that country has been subject for many 
hundred years must have been fatal to her agriculture. The 
periods ot repose from external wars and internal commotions 
Iiave been short and few, and even during the times of pre- 
found peace, the frontier provinces were constantly subject to 
the ravages of the Tartars. Hence the slow increase. 

One of the most valuable parts of the Essay oft Population is 
that wherein Mr. Malthus treats of the checks to population 
in Hindostan and Tibet. In Hindostau, according to the 
ordinance of Menu, the Indian legislator, marriage is very 
greatly encouraged, and a male heir is considered as an object 
of the first importance. Hindoo maidens are married at the 
age of eleven, and even younger : and become mothers before 
they attain the age of twelve. For such reasons, Hindostan 
has been one of the most noted countries in the world for 
devastations, epidemics, and famines. The lower classes have 
for centuries been reduced to the extremost poverty, and 
compelled to adopt the most frugal and scanty mode of sub- 
sistence. Whilst the average annual income per head in 
England was calculated, by Mr. Henry Fawcett in 1870, at 
about some eighteen pounds ; in Hindostan, it was lately 
stated by Mr. J. Bright, that about two or three pounds 
sterling for food is all a Hindoo peasant gets. And, as Lord 
Derby remarked in his admirable Rochdale speech in 1879, 
the people of Hindostan seem to be a marked example of 


iiow very low a standard of living a nation may people 
•down to. 

Recent years liave made us familiar with the tales of 
Indian famines ; but there is nothing novel in these in the 
history of that long over-peopled country. One of the 
Jesuits cited by Malthus says that it is impossible for him to 
•describe the misery to which he was witness during the two 
years' famine in 1737 and 1738, and another Jesuit writes, 
•** Every year we baptize 'a thousand children, whom their 
parents can no longer feed, or who, being likely to die, are 
sold to us by their mothers in order to get rid of them." 

Tibet, it seems, according to Malthus, is perhaps the only 
country where habits tending to repress population are, or 
were, universally encouraged by the government. Celibacy 
is there much encouraged among government employ s, and 
the number of monasteries and nunneries is considerable. 
•* But, even among the laity, the business of population goes on 
very coldly. All the brothers of a family, without any re- 
striction of age or of numbers, associate their fortunes with 
one female, who is chosen by the eldest and considered as 
the mistress of the house.'*' It is evident that this custom, 
combined with the celibacy of such a numerous body of 
•ecclesiastics, must operate, says Malthus, in the most powerful 
manner as a preventive check to population. Yet, according 
to Mr. Turner's account, it appears that the population of 
Tibet presses on the means of subsistence. Tibet, in Mr. 
Turner's time, seems to have suffered, as England now does, 
and as we hear that even our wealthy colonies of Victoria and 
New South Wales do, from a set of paupers created by an 
extremely unwise system of out-door relief — a system which 
but too often manufactures the very paupers it wishes to 

Mr. Malthus' account of the Checks to Population in 
China and Japan, contained in chapter xij. of his work' is 
one of the most important contributions to the question con- 
ceivable. His authorities are Duhalde's History of China and 
Sir G. Staunton's Account of his Embassy to China. Accord- 
ing to the former author, writing in 1738, the population of 
China was then estimated as at least three hundred and thirty- 
three millions. At present China is said to contain some four 
hundred millions. 

The causes of the great populousness of China are, according 
to Malthus, its advantageous position as to climate and irriga- 
tion, and the very great encouragement given to agriculture 


by the monarclis of that nation. The Emperor himself e very- 
year, to set an example, ploughs a few ridges of land, and the- 
mandarins of every city perform the same ceremony. The 
whole surface of the empire is, with trifling exceptions, dedi- 
cated to the production of food for man alone. There is no- 
, meadow, and very little pasture, and no waste land. Even 
the soldiers of the Chinese army are mostly employed in. 

The extraordinary encouragements given to marriage also- 
contribute to make China more populous in proportion to the 
extent of its territory than any other country. The permission 
given by parents to abandon their children, which exists in 
China, is shown by Sir G. Staunton to facilitate marriage, and 
cause even greater over-population than in more civilized 
states where such barbarities are not permitted. The effect of 
this early marriage and rapid peopling is to subdivide pro- 
perty ; and it is a common remark among the Chinese, that 
fortunes seldom continue considerable in the same family 
beyond the third generation. One of the Jesuits, writing on 
China, saj^s : ''The richest and most flourishing empire of the 
world is, in one sense, the poorest and most miserable of all. 
Four times as much territory would be necessary to put the: 
inhabitants at their ease.'' 

It cannot be said in China, as it often is said in Europe, thai 
the poor are idle, and might gain a subsistence if they would, 
work. The labours and efforts of these poor peoiDle are beyond 
conception. " A Chinese will pass whole days in digging the 
earth, sometimes up to his knees in water, and in the evening 
is happy to eat a little spoonful of rice, and to drink the in- 
sipid water in which it is boiled." This is the remark of a 
Jesuit: and although it is evidently an exaggeration, since 
modern researches on diet show that such food could not main- 
tain animal existence, it shows what miseries are caused by 
the peopling down to such a low standard of comfort. 

" The procreative power,'* says Malthus, " would, with as 
much facility, double in twenty-five years the population of 
China, as that of any of the States of America." We can 
readily sympathise, then, with the alarm felt by our fellow- 
countrymen in Australasia and California, at the possible^ 
invasion of the untold millions which China could, with the 
greatest facility, pour into them. It is. for this reason, that 
the Legislature of New South Wales has quite recently, by a 
large majority, passed a Bill to stem the current of Chinese 
It v/ill be for the ultimate advantage of the- 


tuman race that nations with such a low standard of comfort 
as the Chinese, should learn that the}^ must imitate the more 
prosperous nations in prudential restraint before they can be- 
come entitled to claim to become citizens of such countries. 

We have lately understood the magnitude of a Chinese 
famine, where millions of unfortunate people are reduced to 
misery and death at once, from the failure of the crops. Mr. 
Malthus notices that, in such times of dearth, China can obtain 
no assistance from her neighbours : and must perforce draw 
the whole of her resources from her own provinces. When 
such failures of the crops occur, the government of China pre- 
tend to be very assiduous in providing schemes for the miseries 
of the people ; but, in the meanwhile, hosts of unfortunates 
are starved to death, since there is not enough food forthcoming, 
so little margin is left, on account of the very scanty share 
falling to the lot of each, even in times of plenty. 

In this chapter upon China and Japan Malthus makes an 
acute remark on the question, which is sometimes discussed in 
this countr}^, whether the consuir.ption of grain in the manu- 
facture of spirits is ever a cause of famine. The whole tend- 
•ency of such a manufacture is, he asj-erts, to the contrary. 
" The consumjDtion of corn, in any other way but that of ne- 
cessary food, checks the population before it arrives at the 
utmost limits of subsistence, and, as the grain may be with- 
drawn from this particular use in the time of a scarcity, a 
public granary is thus opened richer probably than could have 
been formed by any other means. When such a consumption 
has been once established, and has become permanent, its effect 
is exactly as if a piece of land, with all the people upon it, were 
removed from the country. The rest of the people would 
•certainly be precisely in the same state as they were before, 
neither better nor worse, in years of average plenty; but, in 
a time of dearth, the produce of this land would be returned 
to them, without the mouths to help them to eat it." 

This fact should be borne in mind by Mr. Hoyle and other 
writers on abstinence from alcohol, since the advocacj^ of a 
good cause is often impeded by incorrect reasoning. " China, 
without her distilleries, would certainly be more pof)ulous," 
says Malthus, *' but on a failure of the seasons would have still 
less resource than she has at present, and as far as the magni- 
tude of the cause would operate, would, in consequence, be 
more subject to famines, and those famines would be severe." 
Temperance advocates, then, should, if possible, try to sub- 
stitute a less injurious luxury in the place of alcohol, which 


causes so much disease ; and not forget that the poverty of 
over-population is one of the great causes of drunkenness. 

The principal cause of the great populousness of Japan is 
doubtless the persevering industry of the inhabitants. The 
checks to population in Japan have been famines, as in China 
and Hindostan; but the Japanese are also more warlike than 
the Chinese, and there is much less encouragement given to- 
marriage in Japan than there is in China. Hence the superior 
enlightenment of the JajDanese, and the intelligence which has 
recently made them so alive to the benefits conferred on man« 
kind by European civilization. 

The all-important nature of the discovery of Malthus may 
be better seen by comparing the condition of China with that 
of the United States of America, than by any other exam])Je. 
So far advanced have the Chinese been, for perhaps some 
thousands of years, in the knowledge of the art of agriculture, 
that it is now probable that the four hundred millions at pre- 
sent occupying the Empii-e could not possibly double in any 
given nuniber of years. Whereas, the population of the United 
States has for the last century continued to double, aided by 
immigration, in periods of less than twenty-five years. He 
must, indeed, be gifted with a poor capacity for reason, who 
does not, on comparing these two rates, at once see, that the 
grand problem for our race is to prevent the instinct of re- 
production from causing the terrible evils of early death, and 
chronic poverty. To introduce the new Malthusian views into 
China and Hindostan is the onl}^ way to cope with the famines, 
infanticides, and life-long starvation of these terribly over- 
peopled countries. 




TPIE more equal division of landed property among the 
Greeks and Romans in the earlier period of their history, 
must have tended greatly to encourage population, since agri- 
culture, Mr. Malthus says, is the only kind of industry which 
permits of multitudes existing. When, as often occurred, the 
number of free citizens did not exceed ten or twenty thousand, 
every individual would naturally feel the value of his own ex- 
ertions, and know that, if he left his lands idle, he would be 
wanting in his duty as a citizen. Hence, a great attention was 
paid to agriculture in Greece. Population rapidly increased, 
and colonization was common, so that the legislators of Greece 
had their attention frequently called to the question of over- 
population. Mr. Malthus had already shown that the practice 
of infanticide, as existing in China, tended rather to increase 
jDopulation, b}^ tempting people into early marriage. Solon 
permitted the exposition of infimts, ]Mr. Malthus is inclined to 
think, partly for the jDurpose of tempting the citizens into early 
marriage, and thus increasing the population. 

The great philosophers of Greece, such as Plato and Aris- 
totle, are the origin of all real civilisation in succeeding ages 
throughout Europe : and have, saved us from the deluge of 
crude theologies, such as those of Palestine or less cultured 
tribes. The so-called divine law of " Increase and multiply 
and replenish the earth," and other equalW vague and mean- 
ingless exclamations, are in strongest contrast with the scientific 
reasoning of these masters of all the learned. Plato, in his " Ee- 
public," limits the number of free citizens in his ideal state to 
five thousand and forty. Procreation, he maintains, when it 
proceeds too fast, may be checked, or when it goes on too 
slowly, may be encouraged, by the proper distribution of hon- 
ors and marks of ignominj^, and by the admonitions of the 
elders to prevent or promote it according to circumstances. 
Mr. John Stuart Mill evidently was of a similar oiDinion, and 
his followers have advocated State intervention as a cure for 
poverty. Plato also anticipated Mr. Darwin himself and the 
modern Darwinians, who lay such great and just stress on the 


point of the rational selection of parents. In the fifth book of 
his *' Republic." he j^roposes that the most healthy men should 
be joined in marriage to the finest specimens among the women, 
and the inferior citizens should be paired with each other. 
He next proiioses that the children of the first class alone shall 
be brought up, the others not. It will doubtless be one of the 
results of the neo-Malthusian movement of this day, that per- 
sons afflicted with hereditary disease will not so often desire to 
become parents as the healthy, whilst they may follow the 
advice of Professor Mantegazza, of Florence, and " marry, 
but not procreate." 

From these and other passages it is clear that Plato well saw 
the tendency of population to increase beyond the means of 
subsistence. His expedients for checking it were not per- 
missible, indeed, but the extent to which they were to be used 
shows how great he perceived the difficulty to be. How back- 
ward most modern nations are in speculation on such points 
may be judged of by the unwillingness in Germany, England, 
and even in France to look the question fairly in the face. In 
Plato's time wars were nearly perpetual, and very destructive, 
and if, whilst knowing this, he could still contemplate the de- 
struction of the children of the jDOorer and sicklier of the 
population, of all who were born when their parents were 
either too young or too old, the fixing of the date of marriage 
late, and the regulating the number of marriages, his reasonings 
and experience must have jDointed out to him the terrible ten- 
dency of population to over-pass the means of subsistence. 

The great writer, Aristotle, seems to have seen the principle 
even more clearly than Plato. He fixes the age of marriage 
for men in his Re23ublic actually at thirty-seven ; and, even 
with this late marriage, he foresaw that there might be too many 
children, so that he proposed that the number allowed to each 
marriage should be regulated. Aristotle accuses Plato of not 
being sufficiently attentive to the population difficulty, and for 
proposing to equalise property without limiting the number of 
children {^De Repuh. lib. ii. ch. vi.). This may be a hint to 
modern Socialists, especialty to those of Germany, where So- 
cialism seems to be becoming the creed of the masses, in des- 
pair at ever hearing any good thing from the military despots 
now in power, Aristotle justly observes that the laws require 
to be much more definite and precise in a state where property 
is equalised, than in others, since, in ordinary circumstances, 
an mcrease of population would only occasion a further sub- 
division of landed property, whereas, m a state of communism. 


the supernumeraries would be altogether destitute, because the 
lands, being reduced to equal elementary parts, would be in- 
capable of further sub- division. He remarks that it is neces- 
sary^ in all cases to regulate the number of children, so that 
they may not exceed the proi3er number. In doing this, death 
and steriHty are of course to be taken into account. But if, 
he says in chapter vii., every person be left free to have as 
many children as he pleases, the necessary consequence will be 
poverty: and poverty is the mother of crime and sedition. 
For these very reasons, an ancient writer on politics, Pheidon 
of Corinth, introduced a regulation to limit population without 
equalising wealth. 

Speaking again, in book ii. ch. vii., of schemes for the equal- 
isation of wealth, Aristotle says that, in order that such schemes 
should be successful, it would be imperative to regulate at the 
same time the size of families. For, if children multiply be- 
yond the means of supporting them, the law will necessarily 
be broken, and families will be suddenly reduced from 
opulence to beggary, a revolution always dangerous to public 
tranquility. In Sparta the landed property had passed into 
the hands of a very small number of the citizens : and Aristotle 
remarks that in such a state the encouragement of large families 
by rewards could only have for its effect to cause an immense 
accumulation of indigence, so long as a better distribution of 
the land were not secured. It would have been well for 
European nations up to this time, had their rulers known even 
as much as Aristotle and Plato of this matter : they would have 
avoided those disastrous historical incentives to procreation, 
which must always have ended only in increasing indigence 
and premature death. 

The positive checks to population in ancient Greece and 
Rome are palpable enough. Incessant wars, plagues, and 
famines prevailed. Livy expresses his surprise that the Volci 
and uEqui, who were so often destroyed by the Romans, should 
have been able to bring fresh armies into the field, but when 
the principle of population is understood, our astonishment 
ceases. Such conquered tribes, like the ancient Germans, 
doubtless gave full scope to the powers of procreation, and 
hence were soon as numerous as before their defeat. And yet 
it seems clear that the horrible practice of infanticide was 
very common in Italy, for Romulus was supposed already to 
have forbidden it, though the constant warfare of the Romans 
must have lessened the necessity for this check. The Roman 
population of Italy soon fell off when the land passed into the 


hands of a few great proprietors, since the other classes, having 
no means of selling their labour, or competing with the 
numerous slaves of the wealthy, would have been entirely 
starved, had it not been for the curious custom which arose of 
distributing large quantities of corn gratis to the poorer or 
landless citizens. No less than two hundred thousand were 
thus fed in Augustus' reign, and probably had little else to 
depend upon. Hence the poorer free citizens could not in- 
crease, and they are said to have been constantly in the habit 
of exposing their unfortunate children, since the quantity of 
food doled out was not enough for a family to subsist upon. 

The jus triiini lileroriwi (law for rewarding fathers of three 
children) could effect nothing in such circumstances, in mak- 
ing the poor give birth to large families, although it may 
occasionally have tempted the landed proprietors to increase 
their families. Had the poor had large numbers of children 
in such a miserable state of society, they must have been born 
only to die of starvation, since the food doled out by the 
Government was not sufficient to feed all. 

Positive laws to encourage marriage, says Mr. Malthus^ 
enacted on the urgency of the occasion, and not mixed with 
religion, as in China and some other countries, are seldom cal- 
culated to answer the end they aim at, and therefore generally 
indicate ignorance in the legislator who proposes them ; but 
the apparent necessity of them almost always indicates a very 
great degree of moral and political depravity in the State ; 
and in the countries in which they are most strongly insisted 
on, not only vicious manners will be found to prevail, but 
political institutions extremely unfavourable to industry, and, 
consequently, to population. 

On this account Malthus entirely disagreed with Hume, who 
supposed that the Eoman world was probably most populous 
during the long peace under Trajan and the Antonines. Wars, 
he says, do not depopulate much while industry continues in 
vigour: and peace will not increase the number of people 
when they cannot find means of subsistence. ** The renewal 
of the laws relating to marriage under Trajan indicates the 
continued prevalence of vicious habits, and of a languishing 
industry, and seems to be inconsistent with the supposition of 
a great increase of population." 

Hume also thought that the population of the ancient world 
was greater than in modern times, because, he said, there were 
hosts of domestic servants in modern States remaining unmar- 
ried. But the contrary inference, says Malthus, seems to b« 


the more probable. When the difficulties attending the rear- 
ing of a family are very great, and, consequently, many persons 
of both sexes remain single, we may naturally suppose that the 
population is stationary, but by no means that it is not abso- 
lutely great ; because the difficulty of rearing a family may 
arise from the very circumstance of a very great absolute po- 
pulation, and the consequent fulness of all the channels to a 
livelihood ; though the same difficulty may undoubtedly exist 
in a thinly peopled country, vi^hich is yet stationary in its 

The number of unmarried persons in proportion to the whole 
number, says Malthus, may form some criterion by which we 
may judge whether population is increasing, stationary, or 
decreasing ; but will not enable us to determine anything 
resjoecting absolute populousness. Yet even in this point we 
may be deceived, since, in some southern countries early mar- 
riages are general, and very few women remain in a state of 
celibacy, j^et the people not only do not increase, but the actual 
number is perhaps small. In this case the removal of the 
preventive check is made up by the excessive force of the 
positive check. The sum of all the positive and preventive 
checks taken together, forms, undoubtedly, the immediate 
cause which represses population ; but we never can expect to 
obtain and estimate accurately this sum in any country : and 
we can certainly draw no safe conclusion from the contem- 
plation of two or three of these checks taken by themselves, 
because it so frequently happens that the excess of one check 
is balanced by the defect of some other. 

Causes which affect the number of births or deaths may or 
may not affect the average population, according to circum- 
stances ; but causes whicJi affect the production and distribution 
of the means of subsistence must neceasarily affect population ; 
and it is therefore on these causes, besides actual enumerations, 
on which we can with any certainty rely. " All the checks to 
population, which have been hitherto considered in the course 
of this review of human society, are clearly resolvable into 
moral restraint, vice, and misery." 

With regard, then, to the checks to population in ancient 
Home, Mr. Malthus thinks that moral restraint acted but 
feebly in restraining the increase of numbers. And of the 
other branch of the preventive check, which comes under the 
denomination of " vice," according to Mr. Malthus, though its 
effect seems to have been very considerable in the later periods 
of Roman history and in some other count^''°!s; yet, on the 


whole, he thinks its operation was much inferior to the positive 
checks. A large portion of the procreative power was called 
into action among the Romans, the redundancy being checked 
by violent causes, among which war was the most prominent 
and striking, and after which came famines and violent diseases. 
In most of these ancient nations the population seems 
to have been seldom measured accurately according to the 
average and permanent means of subsistence, bat generally to 
have vibrated between the two extremes, and therefore the 
contrasts between want and plenty were strongly marked, as 
might be expected in the earlier and less experienced ages of 
human society. 




BOOK ij. of Malthus' Essay treats of the checks to popula- 
tion in the different States of modern Europe, — Norway, 
Sweden, Kussia, German}'-, Switzerland, France, Great Britain,, 
and Ireland. In Malthus' day, Norway seems to have been, 
perhaps, the most prosperous country in Europe ; and it was 
distinguished by the great healthiness of its people. The 
death-rate he puts down as only one in 48, in a population of 
about three-quarters of a million. 

With such a very low positive check, Malthus at once looked 
tor the existence of a very high prevenlive check ; and found 
this to be present in the very small proportion of marriages 
(one in 130) taking place annually in Norway. 

There were, then as now, no large manufacturing towns in 
Norway to take away the overflowing population of the coun- 
try ; and, hence, as emigration was not then in vogue, the 
Norwegian peasant seldom left the village he was born in. 
Until, then, some married person died, there was usually no 
place for another marriage to take place. "In countries 
more fully peopled (says Malthus) this subject is always in- 
volved in great obscurity. Each man naturally thinks that 
he has as good a chance of finding employment as his neigh- 
bour, and that if he fail in one place he shall succeed in 
another. He marries, therefore, and trusts to fortune : and 
the effect too frequently is, that the redundant population oc- 
casioned in this manner is repressed by the positive checks of 
poverty and disease." 

It is without doubt, says our author, owing to the preventive 
check to population, as much as to any peculiar healthiness of 
air, that the mortality of Norway is so low. In every country 
the principal mortality takes place among very young children ; 
and the smaller number of these in Norway, in proportion to 
the whole population, will naturally occasion a smaller mor- 
tality than in other countries, supposing the climate to be 
equally healthy. 

The population of Norway is now about 1,800,000, a very 
large accession since the days of Malthus, and there has o£ 


late years been a very large emigration from that country to 
the United States, which indicates that, in all probability, there 
will soon be less of prudential restraint in the matter of births, 
and hence, doubtless, a higher death-rate than at the commence- 
ment of this century. The former low death-rate of Norway, 
one in 48, is not attained to at present by almost any Eu- 
ropean State except Norway. It is little more than 20 per 
1000 per annum. 

Malthus mentions in his work that Norway is almost the 
only country in Europe where a traveller will hear any appre- 
hensions exiDressed of a redundant population, and where the 
danger to the happiness of the lower classes of people from 
this cause, is in some degree seen and understood. " This ob- 
viously arises from the smallness of the population altogether 
and the consequent narrowness of the subject. If our attention 
were confined to one parish, and there were no power of emi- 
grating from it, the most careless observer could not fail to 
remark that, if all married at twenty, it would be perfectly 
impossible for the farmers, however carefully they might im- 
prove their land, to find employment and food for those that 
would grow up ; but when a great number of these parishes 
are added together in a populous kingdom, the largeness of the 
subject and the power of moving from place to place obscure 
and confuse our view. We lose sight of a truth which before 
appeared completely obvious ; and in a most unaccountable 
manner attribute to the aggregate quantity of land a power of 
supporting people beyond comparison greater than the sum 
•of all its parts." 

In Sweden, in Mr. Malthus' day, the inhabitants of the 
towns were only one-thirtieth part of the whole population ; 
and the mortality, when Malthus wrote, seems to have been as 
high as one in 35. The proportion of yearly marriages he 
found, in Sweden, to be about one in 112 : varying from one 
in 100, in good years, to one in 124, in bad ones. When it is 
remembered that the marriage-rate in Norway was but one in 
135, against one in 112 in Sweden, the reason of the high 
death-rate is at once explained. 

As usual, in Europe at that time, however, Swedish legis- 
lators were in the habit of endeavouring to increase population 
in all sorts of foolish ways, as, for instance, by encouraging 
strangers to settle in the country. Malthus remarks that, by 
doing so, the Grovemment of Sweden was merely raising the 
already high death-rate, and not really increasing the population 
at all. 


According to the economist, Cantzlaer, the principal measures 
in which the Government had been employed for the encou- 
ragement of the population were the establishment ot Colleges 
•of Medicine, and of Lying-in and Foundling Hospitals. Mal- 
thus remarks, that *' the example of the hospitals of France 
may create a doubt whether such establishments are universally 
to be recommended. Foundling hospitals, whether they attain 
their professed object or not, are, in every view, hurtful to the 

The population of Sweden, in 1751, was 2,229,000. It is 
mow 4,400,000. There has recently been, as from Norway, a 
very large emigration from that State to America. "TTie 
sickly periods in Sweden (says Malthus) which have retarded 
i;he increase of its population, appear in general to have arisen 
from the unwholesome nourishment occasioned by severe want. 
And this want has been caused by unfavourable seasons falling 
npon a country which was without any reserved store, either 
in its general exports, or in the liberal division of food to the 
labourer in common years, and which was therefore peopled 
up to its produce before the occurrence of the scanty harvest. 
Such a state of things is a clear proof that if, as some of the 
Swedish economists assert, their country ought to have a j3opu- 
lation of nine or ten millions, they have nothing further to do 
than to make it produce food sufficient for such a number, and 
they may rest perfectly assured that they will not want mouths 
to eat it, without the assistance of lying-in and foundling 

With regard to the State of Eussia at the beginning of this 
century, Malthus has left us a most interesting account derived 
from queries made during his travels in that country. At that 
■ date, the births in some parts of Russia were, to the deaths, 
according to Russian statistics, nearly as three to one. This 
jreminds us moderns of 1879, of the birth and death-rate of 
our happy colony of New Zealand, where in 1877, there was 
the prodigious birth-rate of 41 per 1000, with the very low 
death-rate of only 12-4. Russian mortality, in Malthus' time, 
must have been very low indeed ; and Mr. Tooke, in his View 
of the Russian E?}ipire, published about that time, made out that 
the general mortality in Russia was one in 58 of the population 
annually. This is incredible, we think, in such an uncivilised 
State as Russia then was. 

The birth-rate in Russia was, at that date, about 40 per 
1,000, or similar to that of New Zealand. The marriage-rate 
^one in 90) was vastly higher than that of Norway (one in 


130), SO that the population of Eiissia was evidently increasing- 
most rapidly at that time. If we are to give any credit to the 
healthiness of Russia in Malthus' time, it is clear that the citj 
of Saint Petersburg was an exception to it, for the half of all 
persons born there lived only till the age of 25. 

With regard to foundling hospitals, Mr. Malthus' visit to- 
the renowned Russian State hospitals of this description, has 
often been quoted, and deserves to be attentively studied by 
all who speak of the question of illegitimacy and charity. 
Malthus found the mortality in the Maison des Efi/ans troiives 
prodigious. One hundred deaths a month was a common 
average. The average number of children taken into this 
charity was at that time ten daily, and the death-rate terrible 
and heart-rending. Children were taken in and no questions 
asked from the mothers, but were handed over to nurses, and 
given back to their parents at any time when they could prova 
themselves able to support them. 

The country nurses to whom these unfortunate children were- 
given were paid only some fifteen-pence a week, and the 
chilcfren were received into that hospital without any limit. 
The children returned from the country (when they did return, 
for most of them diedj, at the age of six or seven ; and the 
girls left the charity at 18, the boys at 20. The excessive 
mortality of the London Foundling Hospital of former days, 
caused it to be forced almost entirely to close its doors ; and 
to become, what it now is, one of the many useless charities 
and shams of the metropolis of Mr. Malthus' native land. 

Mr. Malthus also speaks of the great mortality of the Mos- 
cow Foundling Hospital, which was instituted in 1786, as 
follows : " It appears to me that the greatest part of this mor- 
tality is clearly to be attributed to these institutions, miscalled 
'philanthropical.' If any reliance can be placed on the ac- 
counts given of the infant mortality in the Russian towns and 
provinces, it would appear to be unusually small. The great- 
ness of it, therefore, in the foundling hospitals, may justly be 
laid to the account of the institutions which encourage a mother 
to desert her child, at the very time when, of all others, it 
stands most in need of her fostering care. The frail tenure 
by which an infant holds its life will not allow of a remitted. 
attention, even for a few hours." 

Foundling Hospitals, it is clear, in Paris, Vienna, and in all 
countries, tend to cause women to become thoughtless and 
heartless. Malthus, indeed, makes a remark which we have 
recently heard paralleled in Vienna. " An English merchant 


■at Saint Petersburg told me that a Kussian girl, living in his 
family, under a mistress who was considered as very strict, 
had sent six children to the Foundling;- hosjDital, without the 
loss of her place. And with regard to the moral feelings of a 
nation, it is very difficult to conceive that they must not be 
very sensibly impaired by encouraging mothers to desert their 
•offspring, and endeavouring to teach them that their love for 
their new-born infants is a prejudice, which it is the interest 
of their country to eradicate." 

Malthus mentions that the population of Russia, in 1796, 
was 36,000,000. At present it is computed at eighty-five and 
a half millions, only seven millions of which is found in Asia, 
and the rest in Europe. 

A Government that had a true sense of what was advan- 
tageous for its subjects would, instead of offering encourageinents 
to population, and incentives to thoughtlessness on the part of 
parents, such as foundling hospitals and other charities, en- 
tourage, by all means in its power, the feeling of parental 
responsibility among all classes. To do this, the most direct 
way would be, to show by some slight fine on the production 
•of large families, that there is no jDussibility of attaining com- 
fort and a low death-rate without conjugal prudence. 

In Chapter ix. of Book ii., Malthus treats on the Checks 
io Population in the Middle parts of Europe at the beginning 
of this century. He makes the observation that there are few 
•countries where the poorer classes have so much foresight as to 
defer marriage till they have a fair prospect of being able to 
dsupport projjerly all their children: and in all countries, he 
adds, a great mortality, whether arising from the too great 
frequency of marriage, or occasioned by the number of towns 
and the natural unhealthiness of the situation, will necessarily 
produce a great frequency of marriage. 

In Holland, in the registers of twenty-two villages, Suss- 
milch noted one marriage to every 64 persons living, the 
usual rate being about 1 in 120. Malthus says he was for 
some time puzzled at this high annual marriage rate, until he 
found that the mortality in these villages was actually 45 per 
1,000 of the population. Tiie extraordinary'- number of 
marriages was merely produced by the rapid dissolution of the 
old marriages by death, and the consequent vacancy of some 
omployment by which a family might be sujjported. In 
Norway the mortalit}^ in his day was only 22 per 1,000, and 
the annual marriage rate 1 in 130. This is a notable contrast 
with the figures relating to Holland just quoted. 


Of late years the birth and death-rate in Holland have beett- 
much more satisfactory than they were in the days of Malthus r 
but the extreme poverty of the working classes in South, as 
compared with North-Holland, has been recently shown by 
Mr. S. Van Houten to result in a far higher birth-i-ate and 
death-rate in the districts adjoining Rotterdam, than occurs 
among the more prudent and well-fed inhabitants of Gron- 
ingen. Still, there have been j^ears quite recently in Holland,, 
when the death-rate has been as high as 29 per 1,000 (ISTl)^' 
and e\^n as lately as 1875 it was 25 per 1,000. 

The standard of comfort has greatly changed in several 
cities in Germany. Thus, in Leipsig, Malthus mentions that, 
in 1620, the annual marriage-rate was 1 in 82 : whilst it fell 
in 1756 to 1 in 120. He observes that, in countries which 
have long been fully peopled, and in which no new sources of 
subsistence are opening, the marriages being regulated princi- 
i^ally by the deaths, will generally bear nearly the same 
proportion to the whole population, at one period as another. 
In Berlin, at the commencement of this centurj', the annual 
marriage-rate was 1 in 110, whilst it was 1 in 137 at Paris. 
Berlin, then as now, was probably a very unhealth}^ city. 
The death-rate of infants there at present is said to amount 
to one-half of all born in the first year of life in some years. 

Direct encouragements to marriage are, says Malthus, either 
perfectly futile, or produce a marriage when there is no place 
for one, thus increasing the mortahty. Montesquieu, Suss- 
milch, and other authors thought that princes and statesmen 
would really merit the name of fathers of their people, if from 
the proportion of 1 in 120 — 125, they could increase the mar- 
riages to the proportion of 1 in 80 or 90. But, sa^^s Malthus, 
as this would greatlj^ raise the death-rate and the poverty in 
the State, such princes would more justh^ deserve the title of 
destroj^ers of the peo23le. Had Mr. Malthus lived in our day, 
he would have been aware that a high marriage-rate is not by 
any means necessarily followed by a high bivth-rate, since, in 
modern France, where there are the greatest number of 
married women in proportion to pojDulation, over the age of 
15, of any European state, the birth- rate is lower than in any 
other European state. But, in Malthus' day, human beings 
were still dominated greatly by instinct, and had not begun to 
allow reason to prevail in the most important of all human 
acts, that which leads to the addition of new members tO' 

Mr. Malthus mentions that it had been calculated in his time^ 


tUat, when the proportion of the people in towns in any State 
was to those in the country as 1 to 3, then the mortality was 
about 28 per 1,000, rising to 32 in 1,000, when the proportion 
of townsmen to countrymen was as 3 to 7 ; and falling below 
28 per 1,000 when the townsmen are to the countrymen as 
1 to 4. This holds true in principle in modern times : and it 
is out of the question to expect to have the death-rate of large- 
cities as low as it is in country districts inhabited by well-fed 

In chapter vi. our author speaks of the checks to jDopulation 
in Switzerland. From statistics existing in Geneva, it seems 
that in that town, during the sixteenth century, the probability 
of life, or the age to which half of those born live, was only 
4.88, or rather less than 5 ; and the mean life was about 18^ 
years. In the seventeenth century the probability of life was 
11^, and the mean life 23 J. In the eighteenth century the 
probability of life had increased to 27, and the mean life to 32. 

M, Muret, a Swiss clergyman of Vevey, in the eighteenth 
century, mentions the case of a village called Leyzin, with a 
population of 400 persons, where there were only eight births 
a year. The probability of life in this model parish appeared to 
be so extraordinarily high as to reach 61 years. And the 
average number of the births having been for 30 years almost 
accurately equal to the number of deaths, clearly proved that 
the habits of the people had not led them to emigrate, and that 
the resources of the parish for the support of the population 
had remained nearly stationary. As the marriages in this 
parish would, with few exceptions, be very late, it is evident 
that a very large proportion of the subsisting marriages would 
be among persons so far advanced in life that the women had 
ceased to bear. The births were only about 1 in 49 of the 
population or much fewer than in France of modern days (1 in 
40). In England they are 1 in 28 of the population at 

M. Muret made some calculations at Vevey respecting the 
fecundity of marriages. He found that 375 mothers had 
produced 2,003 children : ?*.,•;., about ^Jx children each : and he 
also found that there were 20 sterile women out of 478, or 
about 1 in 23 wives. Taking this into account, the average 
number of children to a family at Vevey was 5^. In modern 
France it is about 3, in Prussia 4 • 68, and in England about 
41. In those days, the proportion of annual marriages to 
population was lower in the Canton de Vaud than even in Nor- 
way, being only ] in 140. In the model village of Leyzia 


only one -fifth of tlie total mortality was among persons under 
fifteen. Such were the results of what Mr. I\[althus considered 
as the only true " moral restraint," late marriages. All these 
calculations of M. Muret imply the operation of the preventive 
check to population in a very great degree in the Canton de 
Vaud. In the town of Berne, the proportion of unmarried 
persons, including widows and widowers, was considerably above 
the half of the adults, and the proportion of the living below 
sixteen to those above was nearly- as 1 to 3 in the beginning 
of this century. The peasants in Berne were noted for com- 
fort and wealth, doubtless owing to the low birth-rate in that 
country. A law there prevented those who had no means from 

Mr. IMalthus gives an amusing account of a conversation he 
had with a peasant who went with him from the Lac de Joux 
to the sources of the river Orbe. This man said that the habit 
if early marriage might be really said to be the vice of the 
country : and he was so strongly impressed with the necessary 
and unavoidable wretchedness that must result from it, that he 
thought a law ought to be made restricting men from entering 
into the married state before they were forty years of age, 
and then allowing it only with old maids, who might bear 
them two or three children instead of six or eight. That 
peasant would have been, we doubt not, one of the most 
zealous advocates of the /wo children system, so wonderfully 
carred out in man}' of the most flourishing districts of France, 
and probably would have abandoned all desire to keep pru- 
dent couples like those in these French districts from marrying. 
We hold with that simjjle peasant of the Jura, who had learnt 
the truths he expounded by sad and cruel experience, he having 
married himself when very young, and with his famil}', 
suffered much from poverty, that governments are culpable 
when they do not attempt to lessen high birth-rates. To for- 
bid early marriage, indeed, is to encourage prostitution and 
cause many other evils ; but to affix a stigma on those who 
produce large families is, as far as we can see, a plan which 
can onh^ jDroduce good and need produce no evil results. It 
is an utter misunderstanding of the rights of the individual to 
suppose that each man and woman ought to have the right to 
cause miseiy to their unfortunate children, and at the same time 
produce a pressure upon the powers of the soil and lessen the 
productive powers of past and jDresent labour. That this will 
ere long be seen to be the truth arising out of the discoveries 
^f the great English professor we cannot for a moment doubt. 




IN the sixth chapter of Book II., Mr. Malthiis gives us som& 
account of the checks to population which existed in 
Prance at the end of last century, which might convince the 
most sceptical of modern pessimists of the vast strides which 
41 nation may take in a short period towards the attainment of 
-comfort and well-being. 

The population of France, before the beginning of the war, 
«ays Malthus, was estimated by the Constituent Assembly at 
SCiJ millions. Necker estimated the yearly births, in 1780, to 
loe above a million, and it is curious, as we shall soon see. that 
France, in 1874, had not a million of births with a population 
of 36 millions. Malthus estimated that, out of that million, 
600,000 would attain the a2;e of 18 ; and, considering that 
nearly as many persons are to be found in a given society, un- 
married as married, he amply accounts for the seeming paradox 
that, whilst France was supposed to have lost 2 J millions by 
actual war and its consequences, at the time of the Revolution, 
the population was found to have increased, in 1800, as 
compared with 1790. 

*' At all times." says Malthus, "the number of small farmers 
and proprietors in France was great : and though such a state 
of things is by no means favourable to the clear surplus pro- 
duce or disposable wealth of a nation, yet sometimes it is not 
unfavourable to the absolute produce, and it has always a 
tendency to encourage population." This last remark of Mr. 
IM.ilthus has not been verified. In no country does the popu- 
lation tend to increase so slowly as in modern France —the 
land par excellence of peasant proprietors. In all probability, 
the rapid increase of population at the time of the French 
Revolution arose from the lower death- rate which always fol- 
lows a sudden amelioration of the position of the humbler 
-3lasses, such as that which took place where landed projDerty 
■came into their possession. 

The average proportion of births to population in all France, 
before the Revolution was. according to Necker, 39 per 1000. 
It has singularly altered since that time, and is now only 26 
per 1,000, or the lowest birth-rate in Europe. The death-rate 


then was 33 per 1,000, and has fallen of late to 21 per 1,000^ 
or nearly the lowest death-rate in Europe. 

Sir Francis d'lvernois, in a work entitled Tableau des Pertes, 
has the following remark : " Those have yet to learn the first 
principles of political arithmetic, who imagine that it is in the 
field of battle and the hospitals, that an account can be taken 
of the lives which a revolution or a war has cost. The num- 
ber of men it has killed is of much less importance than the 
number of children which it has prevented, and will still pre- 
vent, from coming into the world." To this Mr. Malthus 
replies : "And yet if the circumstances on which the foregoing 
reasonings are founded should turn out to be true, it will appear 
that France has not lost a single birth by the revolution. She 
has the most just reason to mourn the two millions and a half" 
of individuals which she may have lost, but not their posterity : 
because, if those individuals had remained in the country, a 
proportionate number of children born of other parents, which 
are now living in France, would not have come into existence. 
K in the best governed country in Europe we were to mourn 
the posterity which is prevented from coming into being, we- 
should always wear the habit of grief." 

•' It is evident," he continues, " that the constant tendency 
of the births in every country to supply the vacancies made 
by death, cannot, in a moral point of view, afford the slightest 
shadow of excuse for the wanton sacrifice of men. The posi- 
tive evil that is committed in this case, the 23ain, misery, and 
wide-spreading desolation and sorrow, that are occasioned to 
the existing inhabitants, can by no means be counterbalanced 
by the consideration that the numerical breach in the popula- 
tion will be rapidly repaired. We can have no other right,, 
moral or political, except that of the most urgent necessity, 
to exchange the life of beings in the full vigour of their- 
enjoyments for an equal number of helpless infants." 

The next passage shows how immensely ameliorated is the 
condition of modern France, as compared with that before the 
Eevolution. *' At all times," says our author, " the number 
of males of a military age in France was small in proportion 
to the population, oa account of the tendency to marriage (1 to 
113 of the population, according to Necker), and the great 
number of children. Necker takes particular notice of this cir- 
cumstance. He observes that the effect of the very great 
misery of the peasantry is to produce a dreadful mortality of 
infttnts under three or four years of age ; and the consequence ^ 
is that the number of young children will always be in too- 


^leat a proportion to the number of grown-up people. A 
million of individuals, he justly observes, will, in this case, 
.neither present the same military force, nor the same capac ity 
of labour, as an equal number of individuals in a country 
.where the people are less miserable. Switzerland, before the 
Revolution, could have brought into the field, or have em- 
ployed in labour 'a]j[3ropHate to grown-up persons, one-third 
more in proportion to her population, than France at the same 

How strikingly all this has been altered by the prudent 
habits with regard to families, induced by the peasant holdings 
in France, is clearly seen by the following statistics : — Between 
the ages of 20 and 60 the human frame is most capable of pro- 
duction, and, according to Kolb, there are in 10,000 persons 
in the several States in Europe the following numbers of per- 
sons of the productive ages: In France, 5,373; in Holland, 
4,964; in Sweden, 4,954; in Great Britain, 4,732; and in 
the United States, 4,396. France has. of all nations in Europe, 
the highest average of ages of the living. Thus it is there 
31-06 years; in Holland, 27-76 ; in Sweden, 27-66 ; in Great 
Britain, 26-56; and in the United States, 23-10. And in 
France there are a greater number of persons who attain tc 
old age than in any other country, for, out of 100 deaths there 
are, in France, over the age of sixty, 36 ; in Switzerland, 34 ; 
in England, 30 ; in Belgium, 28 ; in Wurtemburg, 21 ; in 
Prussia, 19 ; and in Austria, 17. 

But the most notable of all the facts of modern Europe is that 
marriages are more prevalent in proportion to population in 
France than elsewhere, and, curiously, there is the smallest 
number of illegitimate births. Thus, the illegitimate births 
in France were, from 1825-67, only 7*27 per cent, of all births, 
whilst in Prussia they were 8-24 per cent, in 1867; in Sweden 
they were 10 per cent.; in Austria, 11 ; and in Bavaria, in 
1868, even 22 per cent, of all births. Paris is an exception 
to this, for the illegitimate births there are about one-fourth of 
all births. 

France had, in 1867, a mortality of only 1 in 44*24 persons; 
v^hilst in Prussia the death-rate was 1 in 33-88, in Austria 
1 in 29-72, in Holland 1 in 36-25, and in Bavaria 1 in 3465 
inhabitants. And here again is a striking contrast of modem 
France with the country of the days of Necker. France has 
now the lowest birth-rate of Europe. There is but one birth 
annually there in 39 inhabitants, whilst in Prussia there 
is one birth in 2547 ; in Holland 1 in 29 ; in Austria 1 in 


26 : in England 1 in 28 inhabitants. According to an article 
by M. Bertillon on Marriage, in 1877, the average family to a 
marriage in France is at present only 3 : against 4-68 in Ger- 
many, i3-96 in Russia, 4*35 in Spain, and 4-25 in England. This 
is what has been recently styled in Europe the '•two (or rather 
three) Children System of the French." When we hear of the 
absurtlly high birth-rate of 4-68 of Germany, need we wonder 
that the death-rate in many German towns sometimes amounts 
to oiie-h<ilf of all born in the fir!>t year of life ? 

France had, in 1872, a population of 36,102,921, and the 
number of births with this population (966,001) did not come 
up to what it was in the days of Necker, when the population 
was only 261 millions. And whilst the population of the United 
Kingdom, according to our Registrar-General, is increasing at 
the rate of 1,173 a day, of which about 700 are left to swell 
the home population, the surplus of births over deaths in 
France is generally not much more than some 60,000 persons 
annually added to her population, so that it would take some 
300 years for that country to double at its present rate. 

Asa consequence of our great birth-rate, 36 per 1,000, there 
is naturally a great emigration, amounting, as the Registrar- 
General tells us, to some 468 persons daily from these shores 
on an average, an emigi'ation which, as it has been mainly 
masculine, has left us a surplus of nearly one million of women 
in these islands. In France there is no great need for emi- 
gration ; and hence but little takes place ; whilst, so contented 
are the peasant proprietors with their homes, that, in 1872, it 
was found that of the 36 millions of France 30| millions were 
born within the registration districts. This fact accounts for 
the continuance of a Republic in France. Poverty is the cause 
of the ruin of Republics. 

We add a few passages from a recent author to show how 
great a step has been taken by the inhabitants of many parts 
of France towards the removal of that terrible indigence which 
is found in most European countries, and even in less favoured 
districts in France. 

In an article on Auvergne, written in 1874 and contained 
in his work entitled Essays in Political and Moral Philosophy^ 
which appeared last year, Mr. Clifife Leslie makes the following 
remarks : " The minute subdivision of land during the last 25 
years in the Limagne, whatever may be its tendencies for 
good or evil in manners and other respects, assuredly cannot 
be ascribed to over-population, once regarded in England as 
th© inevitable consequence of the French law of succession. 


.... The Keport of the Enqiiete Agricole on the department 
states : * All the witnesses have declared that one of the prin- 
cipal causes of the diminution of the population is the diminu- 
tion of children in families. Each family usually wishes for 
only one child ; and wlien there are two, it is the result of a 
mistake [tine erreur), or that having had a daughter first, they 
desire to have a son.' A poor woman near Koyat, to whom I 
put some questions respecting wages and prices, asked whether 
my wife and children were there, or at one of the other water- 
ing places, and seemed greatly surprised that I had neitlier. 
She thought an English tourist must be rich enough to have 
several children; but when asked how many she had herself, 
she answered, with a significant smile, * One lad ; that's quite 
enough.' Our conversation at this point was as follows : — 
' Voire dame et vos enfant s, sont I'ls a Roy at ?^ ' Non.^ ' Ou 
done? A Mont Dore ?^ * Moi, je nai ni enfant s ni femmeS 

* Quoi ! Pas encore /^ ! ' ^ Et vous, comhien d'eiifants avez-vous ? ' 

* Un gars : cest hien assez. Nous sommes tauvres, mais vous etes 
rtche. Cela fait une petite difference.' The translation of which 
is : ' Are your wife and children at Roy at ? ' * No.' ' Where 
then ? At Mont Dore ? ' * 1 have neither wife nor children/ 

* What ! Not yet ? I ' * And you, how many children have 
you ? ' * One buy : that is quite enough. We are poor, but 
you are rich. Tiiat makjs a little difference.' '' 

Mr. Leslie continues, p. 421 : '' If over-population gives rise 
to tremendous problems in India, the decline in the number 
of children in France seems almost equally serious. If two 
children are born to each married couple, a population must 
decline, because a considerable number will not reach ma- 
turity. If only one child be born to each pair, a nation 
must rapidly become extinct. The French law of succession 
is producing exactl}^ the opposite effect to what was predicted 
in this country. Had parents in France complete testamentary 
power, there would not be the same reason for limiting the 
number of children. M. Leon Iscot, accordingly, in his evi- 
dence on this subject before the Enquete Agricole on the Puy- 
de-Dome, said — 'Tae number of births in families has dimi- 
nished one half. We must come to liberty of testation. In 
countries like England, where testamentary liberty exists, 
families have more childien. ' " 

Mr. Leslie puzzles us terribly. He recommends, in an essay 
on The Celibacy of the Nation, that the state of female celibacy 
should be greatly encouraged in all couuti-ies that desire to 
have happy marriages, but yet he is agiinst the tivo children 


system of the French. Decidedly, Mr. Leslie has not thought 
out the question. He adds, on p. 42-i : '* Whatever may be 
thought of the change which is taking place in France in 
respect of the numbers of the population, there is one change 
of which no other country has equal reason to be proud. Its 
agricultural population before the Eevolution was in the last 
extremity of poverty and misery — their normal condition was 
half-starvation ; they could scarcely be said to be clothed ; 
their appearance in many places was hardly human. No other 
country in Europe, taken as a whole, can now show, upon the 
whole, so comfortable, happy, prosperous, and respectable a 

In an article on "Holidays in Eastern France, Seine et 
Marne," in Frasers Magazine, September, 1878, we find this 
13assage: — '* We are in the midst of one of the wealthiest 
and best cultivated regions of France, and when we penetrate 
below the surface we find that in manners and customs, as 
well as dress and outward appearance, the peasant, and agri- 
cultural population generally, differ no little from their remoter 
fellow-countrymen, the Bretons. . . . There is no superstition, 
hardly a trace of poverty, and little that is poetic. The people 
are rich, laborious, and progressive. ... It is a significant 
fact that in this well-educated district, where newspapers are 
read by the poorest, and where well-being is the rule and 
poverty a rare exception, the church is empty on Sunday and 
the priest's authority is nil. 

*' It is delightful to witness the widespread well-being of 
this highly-favoured region. ' There is no poverty here,' say 
my host and hostess, * and that is why life is so pleasant. 
True enough ! Wherever you go you find well-dressed con- 
tented-looking people — no rags, no squalor, no pinched 
want. ... The habitual look of content written upon the 
faces you meet is very striking. It seems as if in this land of 
Goshen life were no burden, but matter of satisfaction only. 
Class distinctions can hardly be said to exist. There are em- 
ployers and employed, masters and servants, of course ; but 
the line of demarcation is lightly drawn, and we find an easy 
familiarity existing between them, wholly free from impolite- 
ness, much less vulgarity. . . . One is struck, too, by the good 
looks, intelligence, and trim appearance of the children, who, 
it is clear, are well cared for, The houses have vines snd 
sweet peas on the walls, flowers in the windows, and altogether 
a look of comfort and ease found nowhere in Western France. 
. . . Here order and cleanliness prevail, with a diffusion of 
well-being hardly to be matched out of America. . . . 


"Dirt is rare, I might almost say as unknown, as rags. . . . 
Drunkenness is also comparatively, in some places we mighf- 
«ay absolutely, absent. As we make further acquaintance with 
these favoured regions, we might suppose that here, at least, 
the dreams of the Utopians had come true, and that poverty, 
^squalor and wretchedness were banished for ever." 

In the month of August, 1878, I had the great advantage of 
reading, in my capacity of Vice-President of the First Section 
of the International Congress of Hygeine at Paris, an essay on 
■*' The Too Rapid Increase of Population as a Cause of Disease 
.and Death." In the debate which followed. Dr. Bertillon, 
the distinguished Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of 
Paris, who has done so much for social statistics, said that he 
<50nsidered that in many parts of France there was too great a 
■disinclination on the part of the people to increase the popula- 
tion. In Brittany, the marriages were few but very prolific, and 
the people were very poor. The influence of the priests was 
paramount in that province, and the mortality, both adult and 
infantile, great. There were very few children to a family in 
Normandy, and the deatli rate was low in that province. The 
French Government he said, appeared to be acting according 
to the plan advised by the reader of the essay, since they taxed 
persons with lar-e families as much as those with small ones. 
He admitted that the size of a family should be regulated by 
parental forethought ; but thought that at present French 
population was too stationary. 

Dr. Lagneau said, that in France it was the rich who had 
the smallest families, whilst the very poor often had large 
ones. The rich employes of Government, above all, were 
noted for the small size of their families. In the case of the 
peasant vine-growers of the Marne, many would only have 
one child, or even none at all, since these peasants found it 
difficult to get people to come from the town and aelp them 
with their farms, and had to do all the work by themselves. 
Hence, female labour was much in demand. 

These facts will, doubtless, afford to many thoughtful per- 
«ons a clear enough picture of the remarkable position of 
modern France, the only country in Europe which, as yet, 
«eems to have begun fairly to grapple with the giant question 
of population 




■R. MALTHUS, in the seventh chapter of his second book^ 
-LTJL speaks of the checks to population in England. He 
points out that a man of liberal education, with an income 
just sufficient to enable him to associate with educated people, 
must feel absolutely certain that, if he should marry and have 
a family, he will be obliged to mix in the society of uneducated 
persons. Such considerations make him pause. Sons of trades- 
men and farmers are exhorted not to marry until settled ia 
some business or farm, and the labourer who earns two shil- 
lings a day, and lives comfortably while single, will hesitate 
to divide that pittance among five I The servants of rich 
people have so many comforts that they naturally are averse to 
sink down to be the proprietors of some poor ale-house. 

Hence, in Malthus' day (1806), the annual marriages in Eng- 
land and Wales were as 1 in 123 of the population, a smaller 
proportion than obtained in any European country at that time^ 
ixcept Norway and Sweden. Dr. Short, writing in 1750, pro- 
posed that single people should be heavily taxed for the support 
of the married poor. Mr. Malthus replies to this proposal of 
the learned judge, that it is not wise to ask people to enter the 
married state, so long as such crowds of children die in infancy 
and so much poverty exists among married persons. Those, 
he adds, who live single or marry late do not diminish the 
actual population by so doing. They merely prevent the pro- 
portion of premature mortality which would otherwise be ex- 
cessive. Sir F. M. Eden mentioned that in some English 
villages the mortality seemed to be very low, viz. 1 in 47, or 
21 per 1,000. London, in the beginning of this century, was, 
it seems, by no means so healthy as it is at ])resent. Accord- 
ing to a great authority. Dr. Price, the mortality was actually 
60 per 1,000 (1 in 20|), whilst at present it is about 23 per 
1,000. At the same epoch, the Manchester death-rate was 
1 in 21, or 35 per 1,000 ; so that Manchester was in those 
days much healthier than London. Manufactures, alas ! how- 
ever useful, are almost always mo3t unwholesome, because 
they crowd hosts of people together without comfort, eCIuoa- 
tion, or forethought. 


Mr. Malthus truly observes that " there certainly seems to 
be something in great towns, and even in moderate towns^. 
peculiarly unfavourable to the very early stages of life."" 
Towns, he adds, are especially dangerous to the life of children. 
** In London, according to former calculations, one half of the- 
born died under three years of age ; in Vienna and Stockholm 
under two; in Northampton under ten. In country villages, 
on the contrary, half the born live to thirty, forty, forty-six,, 
and above." He adds that in parishes where the mortality is. 
BO small as 1 in 60 or 1 in 75, half the born would be found to 
have lived to 50 or 55. This is precisely the case among the 
members of the professional classes in England and Wales at. 
this time, according to Mr. Charles Ansell's oft-quoted tables. 

Dr. Short, it seems, estimated the birth-rate of England at. 
1 in 28, or 35 per 1,000. This is just about our present birth- 
rate. **It has hitherto," says our author, " been usual with 
political calculators to consider a great proportion of births as- 
the surest sign of a vigorous and flourishing state. It is to be^ 
hoped, however, that this prejudice will not last long. In 
countries circumstanced like America, or in other countries 
after any great mortality, a large proportion of births may be- 
a favourable symptom ; but in the average state of a well- 
peopled territory, there cannot well be a worse sign than a. 
large proportion of births, nor can there well be a better sign, 
than a small proportion." This sentence ought to be written 
in letters of gold on the public monuments of all civilised- 

Sir Francis d'lvernois, who is by no means always so wise,, 
is cited by Malthus as writing as follows : — " If the various 
States of Europe kept and published annually an exact ucjcount. 
of their population, noting carefully in a second column the 
exact age at which the children die, this second column would 
show the relative merit of the governments and the compara- 
tive happiness of their subjects. A single arithmetical state- 
ment would then perhaps be more conclusive than all the^ 
arguments that could be adduced." 

Mr. Malthus speaks of the great difficulty that existed in^ 
former centuries of obtaining reliable information as to the- 
numbers of the people. According to Davenant, he says, in 
1690, the number of houses (in England and Wales) was- 
1,319,215. Allowing five persons to a house, this would give- 
a population of six millions and a half in 1690 ; and it is quite^ 
incredible that from this time to 1710 the population should 
have diminished nearly a million and a half. So that th^ 


estimated population of England and Wales in the latter year 
was Bald to have been only five millions. 

In chapter eight of his second book, our author speaks of the 
checks to population in Scotland and Ireland. At the beginning 
of this century, as now, Scotland seems to have been one of the 
healthiest countries in Europe. Malthus mentions that in the 
parish of Crossmichael, in Kircudbright, the mortality was 
given as one in 98, and the yearly marriages as one in 192 of 
the population. Mr. Wilkie stated that from the accounts of 
36 parishes, the expectation of an infant's life appeared to be 
as high as 40*3. There can be little doubt that these figures 
are all, more or less, erroneous. 

Mr. Malthus, writing in 1806, says that '* in these parishes 
in Scotland, where manufacturing has been introduced, which 
offered employment to children as soon as they have reached 
their sixth or seventh year, a habit of marrying early naturally 
follows ; and, while the manufacture continues to flourish and 
increase, the evil arising from it is not very perceptible ; al- 
though humanity must confess with a sigh, that one of the 
reasons why it is not so perceptible is that room is made for 
fresh families by the unnatural mortality which takes place 
among the children thus employed." Mr. Van Houten gave 
a most eloquent variation of this theme at the meeting of the 
International Congress of Medical Men, at Amsterdam, in 
1879, when he said that children should never be employed 
in industry : — " The child belongs to himself and to play. 
How many lives of children," he continued, " do we not wear 
out in our clothes, or smoke away in our cigars ! " 

Another writer in Malthus' day is astonished at the rapid 
i crease of population in parts of Scotland, in spite of a con- 
-siderable emigration to America in 1770, and a large drain 
during the war. In the parish of Duthie (Elgin) the annual 
births were yV ^^ *^® whole population, the marriages one in 
55 Each marriage in this place was stated to yield seven 
•children, and yet the population had decreased; The women 
-of Scotland appeared in those days to have been very prolific. 
In the parish of Nigg (Kincardine) there were 57 families 
^with 405 children — ;>., nearly 7J each. Compare this with 
modern France, with an average of three children to a mar- 
riage. In Scotland at present the number of children to a 
marriage is about four. 

The illustrious clergyman, Dr. Chalmers, whose centenary 
-of birth was celebrated on March 7, 1880, was always greatly 


^averse to the introduction of the English poor-law system 
into Scotland. Mr. Malthus points out that before his day 
"*' the poor of Scotland were in general supported by voluntary 
■contributions, distributed under the inspection of the minister 
of the parish ; and it appears, upon the whole, that they have 
been conducted with considerable judgment. Having no claim 
by right to relief, and the supplies, from the mode of their 
•collection, being necessarily uncertain, and never abundant, 
ihe poor have considered them merely as a last resource in 
•cases of extreme distress, and not as a fund on which they 
might rely." In the account of Caerlaverock, in answer to 
the question, " How ought the poor to be supplied ?" it is 
most judiciously remarked, '* that distress and poverty multiply 
in proportion to the funds created to relieve them ; that the 
measures of charity ought to remain invisible till the moment 
•when it is necessary that they should be distributed ; that in 
the country parishes of Scotland in general small occasional 
voluntary collections are sufficient ; that the legislature has no 
■occasion to interfere to augment the stream, which already is 
•copious enough ; in fine, that the establishment of a poor rate 
would not only be unnecessary, but hurtful, as it would tend to 
■oppress the land-holder without bringing relief to the poor." 

Chalmers preached these doctrines enthusiastically during 
iiis long and eventful life, and his conduct in moralising that 
part of the city of Glasgow where he was pastor will ever be 
Teme inhered with gratitude by all lovers of human happiness. 

The Poor-law Act of 1834, which was carried out in accord- 
^ance with the views of Malthus and Chalmers, unfortunately 
placed no effectual check on the quantity of outdoor relief, and 
hence the number of outdoor paupers in England is often 
•as high as one-eighth of all reHeved. This demoralises and 
pauperises the English poor to an alarming extent. This Poor- 
law was introduced, with its worst features exaggerated, into 
;Scotland in 1845, when a brand-new Poor-law was brought in 
"with great facilities for outdoor relief. Well might Chalmers 
^warn his countrymen against such a Poor-law. It has already 
pauperised the most interesting peasantry in the British 
Islands to such a degree that, whilst in England one out of 
'«very twenty persons is often a pauper, in Scotland already 
^one in twenty-three are so, whereas in Ireland, with a far lower 
.standard of comfort, but a much more stringent Poor-law, only 
one in seventy-four persons are in receipt of any parish relief, 

"The endemic and epidemic diseases in Scotland," says 
Malthus, " fall chiefly, as is usual, on the poor. . . . To 

44 THE ltk;: anh \V!:!tinos 

the same causes, in a grreat measure, are attributed the rlieu- 
matisms which are general and the consumptions whicli ar*^ 
frequent among the common people. Wherever, in any j lace;, 
from particular circumstances, the condition of the p or has 
been rendered worse, these disorders, particularly the latter^ 
have been observed to prevail with greater foice." In those- 
observations Mr. Malthus lays the very foundation of the 
science of health. Health in Europe, he shows, is incom-^ 
patible with high birth-rates, which cause over-crowding, 
consumption, and death. 

Scotland, says Malthus, writing in 1806, is certainly still 
over-peopled, but not so much as it was a century ago, when 
it contained fewer inhabitants. Scotland in 1801, had 1,608,420 
inhabitants, and in 1871, 3,360,018, so that its time of doublinu' 
has been nearly seventy years, or much slower than that of 
England and Wales. 

With regard to Ireland, there is only one short paragraph in 
Malthus' tentli Chapter of Ijook Second upon that country. 
We give it in its entii-ety : — ''The details of the population of 
Ireland are but little known. I shall onl}^ observe, therefore,, 
that the extended use of potatoes has allowed of a very rapid 
increase of it during the last century (18th). But the cheap- 
ness of this nourishing root, and the small piece of ground; 
which, under this cultivation, will in average years produce 
the food for a family, joined to the ignorance and barbarism oi 
the people, which have prompted thetn to follow their inclina- 
tions with no other prospect than an immediate bare subsistence,. 
have encouraged marriage to such a degree that the popula- 
tion is pushed much beyond the industry and piesent re^^ources- 
of the country ; and the consequence naturally is that the lower 
classes of people are in the most depressed and miserable state. 
The checks to the population are, of course, chiefly of the 
positive kind, and arise from the diseases occasioned by squalid 
poverty, by damp and wretched cabins^ by bad and insufficient 
clothing, bj'- the filth of their persons, and occasional Avaut." 

Malthus here foresaw the famine of 1848, which, aided by 
emigration, reduced the Irish population from 8,175,124 im 
1841 to 6,552,385 in 1851. Doubtless, as shown by Mr. J. 
S. Mill, Professor Laveleye, and other subsequent writers, the- 
miserable condition of the Irish peasant is due mainly to the- 
intolerable feudal laws of land tenure, which have been sO' 
violently put an end to in our happiest of modern Europear 
States, France. 




JN Volume IT. of the *' Essay on the Principle of Popula- 
tion " (edition ISOG) there are to be found a number of 
most interesting remarks on the population question. Book II. 
contains chapters on the Fruitfuhiess of ]\larriage, on the 
Effects of Epidemics, on Registers of Births, Deaths, and Mar- 
riages, and on the General Deductions from the Preceding 
View of Society. 

" There is no absolutely necessary connection," saj^s Malthus, 
•** between the average age of marriage and the average age of 
-death. In a country the resources of which will allow of a 
rapid increase of population, the expectation of life or the 
average age of death may be extremely high, and yet the age 
■of marriage may be very early : and the marriages, then, com- 
pared with the contemporary d<*laths of the registers, would, 
«ven after the correction for second and third marriages, be 
very much too great to represent the true proportion of the 
born living to marry." 

At the commencement of th"s century, it appears from the 
transactions of the Society of Philadelphia, in a paper by Mr. 
Barton, entitled *' Observations on the Probability of Life in 
the United States," that the proportion of marriages to births 
was as 1 to 4 J. As, however, this proportion was taken princi- 
pally from towns, it is probable, according to Malthus, that 
the births given were too low, and that as many as five might 
be taken as an average for town and country. According to 
this author, the mortality at that date was about 1 in 45 ; and, 
if the population doubled in twenty- five years, the births 
would be 1 in 20 (50 per 1,000). 

In England at the commencement of this century the pro- 
portion of marriages to births appears to have been about 100 
to 350. But in those days Mr. Malthus calculated that the 
annual marriages to the births in England amounted to about 
1 in 4. In the East-end of London at the present day the 
writer has found that the average number of children to % 
marriage among the women of the poorer classes is about 7,. 
whilst the annual births in England and Wales to the mar- 



riages are nearly as 4^ to 1. In France the annual marriage* 
are to the births as 1 to 3. 

A writer in Mr. Malthus's day, Crome, observes that when, 
the marriages of a country yield less than four births, the- 
population is in a very precarious state ; and he estimates the 
prolificness of marriages by the proportion of yearly births to- 
maniages. If this had been true, the population of many 
countries of Europe would be at present in a precarious state, 
since in many, as in France, the projjortion of marriages to 
births is much under 4 to 1. 

** The preventive check," says Malthus, **is perhaps best 
measured by the smallness of the proportion of yearly births 
to the whole population. The projDortion of yearly marriages 
to the population is only a just criterion in countries simi- 
larly circumstanced, but is incorrect where there is a differ- 
ence in the prolificness of marriages or in the proportion of 
the population under the age of puberty, and in the rate of 
increase. If all the marriages of a country, be they few or 
many, take place young, and be consequently prolific, it is 
evident that to produce the same proportion of births a smaller 
number of marriages will be necessary, or, with the same pro- 
portion of marriages, a greater proportion will be produced." 

Curiously enough, in his day Malthus mentions that in 
France both the births and deaths were greater than they were 
in Sweden, although the proportion of marriages was then 
rather less in France. " And when," he adds, " in two 
countries compared, one of them has a much greater part of 
its population under the age of puberty than the other, it i& 
evident that any general proportion of the yearly marriages to 
the whole population will not imply the same operation of the 
:preventive check among those of a marriageable age." 

One of the most interesting chapters in the second volume- 
of Malthus' essay is that which relates to the rapid increase 
of births after the j^lagues. According to Sussmilch, very few 
countries had hitherto been exempt from plagues, which every 
now and then would sweep away one-fourth or one-third cf 
their population. That writer calculated that above one-third 
of the people in Prussia were destroyed by the plague of 1711 ; 
And yet, notwithstanding this great diminution of the popula- 
tion, it appeared that the number of marriages in 1711 wa& 
very nearly double the average of the six years preceding th& 
plague. Hence the proportion of births to deaths was pro- 
digious — 320 to 100 — an excess of births as great, perhaps, as 
has ever been known in America. In the fuur years succeed- 


ing the plague the births were to the deaths in the proportion- 
of above 22 to 10, which, calculating the mortality at 1 in 36,. 
would double the population in 21 years. 

" In contemplating," says Malthus, '' the plagues and sickly 
seasons which occur in the tables of Sussmilch, after a period 
of rapid increase, it is impossible not to be struck with the 
idea that the number of inhabitants had, in these instances, 
exceeded the food and accommodation necessary to preserve 
them in health. The mass of the people would, upon this 
supposition, be obliged to live worse, and a greater number of 
them would be crowded together in one house ; and these 
natural causes would evidently contribute to increase sickness, 
even though the country, absolutely considered, might not be 
crowded and populous. In a country even thinly inhabited,. 
if an increase of population takes place before more food is 
raised, and more houses are built, the inhabitants must be 
distressed for room and subsistence." 

In Chapter xi. we have some general deductions from the 
preceding views of Society. Mr. Malthus there shows that 
the main cause of the slow growth of populations in Europe ia 
insufficiency of supplies of food. No settlements, says our' 
author, could have been worse managed than those of Spain,. 
Mexico, Peru and Quito. Yet, under all their difficulties,, 
these colonies made a quick increase in population. But the 
English North American Colonies added to the quantity of rich 
land they held in common with the Spanish and Portuguese 
settlements, a greater degree of liberty and equality. In Penn- 
sylvania there was no right of primogeniture in Malthus' time : 
and in the provinces of New England the eldest son had only 
a double share. The consequence of these favourable circum- 
stances united was a rapidity of increase almost without a 
parallel in history. Throughout all the northern provinces 
the population was found to double itself in 25 years. The 
original number of persons which had settled in the four pro- 
vinces of New England, in 1643, was 21,200. Afterwards it 
was calculated that more left them than went to them. In the 
year 1760 they were increased to half a million. They had, 
therefore, all along, doubled their numbers in 25 years. In. 
New Jersey the period of doubling appeared to be 22 years ; 
and in Khode island still less. In the back settlements, where 
the inhabitants apj^lied themselves solely to agriculture, and 
luy^ury was not known, they were supposed to double their 
numbers in 15 years. 

The population of the United States, says Malthus, writing 


in 1806, according to the last Census, is 11,000,000. ** W© 
liave no reason to believe that Great Britain is less populous 
-at present, for the emigration of the small parent stock which 
' produced these numbers. On the contrary, a certain amount 
of emigration is known to be favourable to the population of 
the mother country. Whatever was the original number of 
British emigrants which increased so fast in North America, 
let us ask. Why does not an equal number produce an equal 
increase in the same time in Great Britain ? The obvious 
reason is the want of food : and that this want is the most effi- 
•cient cause of the three immediate checks to population which 
have been observed to prevail in all societies, is evident, from 
the rapidity with which even old States recover the desolations 
of war, pestilence, famine, and the convulsions of nature. They 
-are then for a short time placed a little in the condition of new 
oolonies, and the effect is always answerable to what might be 
-expected. If the industry of the inhabitants be not destroyed, 
^subsistence will soon increase beyond the wants of the reduced 
numbers; and the invariable consequence will be, that popu- 
lation, which before perhaps was nearly stationary, will begin 
immediately to increase, and will continue its progress till the 
:foi.'mer population is recovered." 

The decennial censuses of the United States during thii 
oenturv have been as follows, in round numbers : — In 1800, 
5,305,000 ; in 1810, 7,239,000 : in 1820. 9,638.000 ; in 1830, 
12.866,000; in 1840, 17,069,000; in 1850, 23,193,000; in 
1860, 31,413,000; in 1870, 38,558,000. If we compare the 
oypherof 1830— 12,866,000— with that of 1800—5,305,000 
— we see that the population of the States far more than 
•doubled itself in the first thirty years of the century, making 
all due allowance for immigration, by the simple process of 
fecundity inherent in the human species. 

Mr. Mai thus mentions (chapter XI. p. 67), that in New 
.Jersey " the proportion of births to deaths, in an average 
of seven years, ending 1743, was 300 to 100. In England 
-and France, he says, at that time the highest average propor- 
tion could not be reckoned at more than 120 to 100." At this 
-date, 1880, the proportion of births to deaths in France is as 
111 is to 100, and in England it is as 152 is to 100, whereas 
in Dublin the deaths exceed the births. In New Zealand the 
births are to the deaths as 340 is to 100. There is nothing, 
lie says, the least mysterious in this. '* The passion between 
•the sexes has appeared in every age to be so nearly the same, 
that it may be considered, in algebraic language, as a given 


quantity. The great law of necessity wbich prevents popu- 
lation from increasing in any country beyond the food which 
it can either produce or acquire, is a law so open to our view, 
•so obvious and evident to our understandings, that we cannot 
for a moment doubt it. The different modes which natine 
takes to repress a redundant population, do not appear, indeed, 
to us so certain and regular ; but though we cannot always 
predict the mode, we may with certainty predict the fact. If 
the proportion of the births to the deaths for a few yeaf-s 
indicates an increase of numbers much beyond the propor- 
tional increased or acquired food of the country, we may be 
perfectly certain that unless an emigration take place the 
deaths will shortly exceed the births, and that the increase 
that has been observed for a tew years cannot be the real 
average increase of the population of that country. If there 
were no other depopulating causes, and if the preventive 
oheck did not act very strongly', every country would with- 
out doubt be subject to periodical plagues and famines." 

This is a well-known passage, and shows the genius of the 
writer as well as any in his work. How immensely superior 
is his clear enunciation of the attraction between the sexes 
when compared with the strange speculatious of Mr. Herbert 
Spencer of late years, about the supposed gradual decay of that 
•attraction in proportion to the alleged increase in the weight 
of the human brain. It is quite deplorable to see what 
ingenuity has been exercised by latter-day philosophers to 
get over the plain and inevitable conclusions of Malthus and his 
oommon-sense school! The struggle for existence and the sur- 
vival of the fittest has been put forward as a plea for allowing 
over-population to grind the masses in constant misery, and 
the delusive ideal of the equation of mouths to food in the 
course of ages by a mere fanciful tendency of organisms to 
become more perfect, without the exercise of volition, are the 
latest struggles of the ostrich to burrow with his head in the 
€and in order to avoid the sight of the inevitable. 

" The only criterion," says Malthus, " of a real and per- 
manent increase in the population of any country is the increase 
in the means of subsistence. But even this criterion is subject 
to slight variations, which, however, are completely open to 
observation. In some countries population seems to have 
been forced : that is the people have been habituated by 
degrees to live almost upon the smallest possible quantity of 
food. There must have been periods in such countries wlien 
population increased permanently without an increase in the 


111 Bans of subsistence. China, India, and the countries pos- 
se>serl by the Bedoween Arabs, as we have seen in the former 
]);u-t of this woi-k, ap[)ear to answer to this description. The 
average produce of these countries seems to be but barely 
snthcient to support the lives of the inhabitants, and, of course,, 
any deficiency from the badness of the seasons must be fatal. 
Nations in this state must necessarily be suhject to famines." all the histories of epidemics which we have- 
read tend to confirm the supposition that they are greatly 
caused by that over-population which, as in Dublin in 1880,. 
leads to over-crowded houses filled by ill-fed and ill-clad 
inmates. Dr. Short, an author of the last century, shows in 
his work (Air, Seasons, &c., vol. ii. p. 206), that a very con- 
siderable proportion of the epidemic years either have followed 
or were accompanied by seasons of dearth and bad food. In 
other places he also mentions great plagues as diminishing 
particularly the numbers of the poorest classes; and in speak- 
ing of different diseases, he observes, that those which are 
occasioned by bad and unwholesome food generally last the- 

" We know (says our author) from constant experience that 
fevers are generated in our jails, our manufactories, our 
crowded workhouses, and in the narrow and close streets of 
our large towns, all which situations appear to be similar in 
their effects to scpialid poAerty, and we cannot doubt that 
causes of this kind, aggravated in degree, contributed to the 
production aud prevalence of those great and wasting plngues 
formerly so common in Europe, but which now, from tlie 
mitigation of their causes, are everywhere considei-ably 
abated, and in many places appear to be completely ex- 

'' Of the other gj-eat scourge of mankind — famine — it may 
be observed that it is not in the nature of things that the 
increase of population should absoluteh^ produce one. This 
increase, though rapid, is necessarily gradual, and as the 
luiman frame cannot be supported, even for a very sliort time, 
without food, it is evident that no more human beings can 
grow up than there is provision to maintain. But though the 
principle of population cannot absolutely produce a famine, it 
prepares the way f^-r one in the most complete manner, and 
by obliging all the lower classes of people to subsist merely 
on the smallest quantity'- of food that will support life, tuins 
even a slight deficiency from the failure of the seasons into a 
severe dearth; and may be fairly said, therefoi'e, to be one of" 


the principal causes of famine. Among the signs of an 
approaching dearth. Dr. Short mentions one or more years of 
luxuriant crops together, and this observation is probably just, 
as we know that the general effect of years of cheapness and 
abundance is to dispose a greater number of persons to marry, 
and under such circumstances the return to a year which gives 
only an average crop might produce a scarcity." 

Much has been lately spoken in professional assemblies 
about recent epidemics of small pox. It is curious to hear 
what our author, writing in 1806, or seven years after the 
discovery of Edward Jenner, has to say. " The small pox 
(says Malthus, book 2, ch. xi., p. 61), which at present may 
be considered as the most prevalent and fatal epidemic in 
Europe, is of all others, perhaps, the most difficult to account 
for, though the periods of its return are in many places 
regular. Dr. Short (Air, Seasons, vol. ii., p. 441), observes 
that from the history of this disorder it seems to have very 
little dependence an present constitutions of the weather of 
seasons, and that it ai)pears epidemically at all times and in 
all states of the air, though not so frequently in hard frost. 
We know of no instances, I believe, of its being clearly 
generated under any circumstances of situation. I do not 
mean, therefore, to insinuate that poverty and crowded houses 
ever absolutelj^ produced it ; but I may be allowed to remark 
that in those places where its returns are regular, and its 
ravages among children, particularly among those of the lowest 
class, are considerable, it necessarily follows that these cir- 
cumstances, in a gieater degree than usual, must always 
precede and accompany its appearance ; that is, from the time 
of its last visit, the average number of children will be iii- 
creasing, the people will, in con.^equence, be growing poorer, 
and the houses will be more crowded till another visit removes 
this superabundant population." 

Other circumstances being equal, it may be affirmed that 
countries are populous according to the quantity of human 
food which they produce or can acquire ; and hapi^y, accord- 
ing to the liberality with which the food is divided, or the 
quantity which a day's labor will purchase. Compare, on 
this standard of our author, the condition of an agricultural 
laborer in England, with beefsteak at one shilling the pound 
in London, with that of Dunedin, where, as we write, it is at 
fourpence the pound, and wages are at least two and a half 
those in England for that class. " Corn countries are more 
populous than pasture countries, and rice countries more 


populous than corn countries. But their happiness does not 
depend either upon their being thinly or full}' inhabited, upon 
their poveity or their riches, their youth or their age ; but on 
the proportion which the population and the food bear to each 
other. This proportion is generally the most favorable in new 
colonies, where the knowledge and industry of an old state 
operate on the fertile unappropriated land of a new one. In 
other cases the youth or the age of a state is not, in this 
respect, of great importance. It is probable that the food of 
Great Britain is divided in more liberal shares to its inha- 
bitants at the present period than it was two thousand, thr^*» 
thousand, or four thousand years ago." 

This passage from Malthus shows that he at least does not 
believe in the view sometimes attributed to him that the 
position of civilised societ}^ is tending continually to become 
more and more unbearable from pressure of population on 
food. Malthus saw quite clearly that the prevention of a 
rapid birth-rate was more and more practised by nations in 
proportion as they became better educated, and he therefore 
did not at all take the pessimistic aspect of human society that 
many believe. 

"In a country never to be oveirun by a people more 
advanced in arts, but left to its own natural progress in civili- 
sation ; from the time when its produce might be considered 
as a unit, to the time that it might be considered as a million, 
during the lapse of many thousand years, there would not be 
a single period when the mass of the people could be said to 
be free from distress, either directly or indirectly, from want 
of food. In every state in Europe, since we have first had 
accounts of it, millions and millions of human existences have 
been suppressed from this simple cause, though perhaps in 
some of these states an absolute famine may never have been 

These expressions of Mr. Malthus are entirely opposed to 
the idea that he held that the future of society was likely to be 
less bright than that of the past Still there is a certain sad- 
ness in the following sentence, w^hich is the real secret of the 
unpopularity of the great discoverer's doctrine. In page 73, 
book ii., chap, xi., he says : *' Population invariably increases 
when the means of subsistence increase, unless prevented by 
powerful and obvious checks. . . Famine seems to be the 
last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of 
population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce 
subsistence for man, tliat unless arrested by the preventive 


check, premature death must in some shape or other visit the 
human race. The vices of mankind are active and able 
ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the 
great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work 
themselves. But should they fail in this work of extermina- 
tion, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague, advance 
in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of 
thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic, in^ 
evitable famine stalks in the rear, and at one mighty blow 
levels the population with the food uf the world." 

In Mr. Malthus's edition of 180G, the third book contains 
several essays on the different systems or expedients which 
have been proposed or have prevailed in society, as they affect 
the evils arising from the principle of population. In chapter I., 
p. 77, be treats of systems of equality proposed by Wallace, 
and the illustrious Condorcet. Mr. Wallace, whose name has 
been adverted to by many writers as one of those who partly 
saw the importance of the tendency of mankind to increase 
more rapidly than food, did not seem to be aware that any 
difficulty would arise from this cause till the whole earth had 
been cultivated as a garden, and was incapable of any further 
increase of produce. Mr. Malthus remarks upon this idea of 
Mr. Wallace, that " at every period during the period of cul- 
tivation, from the present moment to the time when the whole 
earth was become like a garden, the distress for want of food 
would be constantly pressing on all mankind if they were 
equal. Though the produce of the earth would be increasing 
every year, population would be tending to increase much 
faster, and the redundancy must necessarily be checked by 
the periodical action of moral restraint, vice, or misery." 

M. Condorcet's Esqiiisse (Tun tableau hisiorique des progres de 
V esprit hiimain was written, it is said, under the pressure of 
that cruel proscription which terminated in his death during 
the French Kevolutiou, and the posthumous publication is only 
a sketch of a much larger work which he proposed to write. 
By the application of calculations to the ^probabilities of life 
and the interest of money, Condorcet proposed that a fund 
should be established, which should assure to the old an assist- 
ance produced in part by their own former savings, and in 
part by the savings of individuals, who in making the same 
sacrifice die before they reap the benefit of it. These establish- 
ments, he observes, might be made in the name and under 
the protection of the state. Mr. Blackley brought forward a 
somewhat similar proposal in 1880. Condorcet adds that by 


the just application of such calculations, means might be found 
of more completely preserving a slate of equality, by prevent- 
ing credit from being the exclusive privilege of large fortunes, 
and yet giving it a basis equall}' solid, and by rendering the 
industry and activity of commerce let^s dependent on great 

Mr. Malthus criticises the schemes of Condorcet as follows: — 
" Supposing for a moment that they would give no check to 
production, the greatest difficulty remains behind. Were 
every man sure of a comfortable provision for a family, almost 
every man would have one ; and were the rising generation 
free from the killing frost of misery, population must increase 
with unusual rapidity." And Condorcet himself saw this, for 
he says : " But in this progress of industry and happiness, 
each generation will be called to more extended enjoyments, 
and, in consequence, by the physical constitution of the human 
frame, to an increase in the number of individuals. Must not 
there arise a period when these laws, equnlly necessary, shall 
counteract each other ; when the increase of the number of 
men surpassing their means of subsistence, the necessary result 
must be, either a continual diminution of happiness and popu- 
lation — a movement truly retrograde — or, at least, a kind of 
oscillation between good and evil. Shall we ever arrive at 
such a period? It is equally impossible to pronounce for or 
against the future realization of an event, which cannot take 
place but at an era when the human race will have attained 
improvements of which we can at j^resent scarcely form a 

To this ]Mr. Malthus replies that the only point in which he 
differs from Condorcet in the paragraph just cited is with 
regard to the period when it may be applied to the human 
race. Condorcet thought that his age of iiun would not come 
until a vevy distant era. Our author remarks, on the contrary, 
that the period when the number of men surpassed their sub- 
sistence had long ago arrived : and that this constantly sub- 
sisting cause of periodical misery has existed ever since we 
have any history of mankind, and continues to exist at the 
present moment. 

*' M. Condorcet (saj's Malthus) however goes on to say that 
should the period which he conceives to be so distant ever 
arrive, the human race, and the advocates of the perfectibility 
of man, need not be alarmed at it. He then proceeds to 
remove the diffi.culty in a manner which I profess not to under- 
stand. Having observed that the ridiculous prejudice of 


'Superstition would by that time have ceased to throw over 
morals a corrupt and degrading- .".usterity, he alludes either to 
a promiscuous concubinage which would prevent breeding, or 
to something else as unnatural. To remove the difficult^' in 
this way will surely, in the opinion of most men, be to destroy 
that virtue and purity of manners which the advocates of 
■equality, and of the perfectibility of man, profess to be the 
■end and object of their views." 

It is from passages such as these that Mr. Malthus differs «o 
much from the so-called New-Malthusians, who look for the 
solution of the population difficult}'- to the " smnll-family 
system " of the French. It would seem that the great French 
writer, Condorcet, had a prophetic knowledge of what the 
•effect of the great French Rovolution would be, a revolution 
which, by converting the cultivator of the soil of that state into 
the proprietor, has made France the most prudent country in 
the known world in the question of the size of families. Mr. 
Bonar, too, in a clever pamphlet, i:)ublished in 1880, shows 
that Mr. Malthus retained somewhat the same phraseology as 
he uses here, in his 7th edition, page 512, where he thus 
«peaks: " If it were possible for each married couple to limit 
by a wish the number of their children, there is certainly 
reason to fear that the indolence of the human race would he 
very greatly increased." Had he lived in 1881, and seen how 
rapidly the industrj'^ of France is increasing, her wealth develop- 
ing, and poverty diminishing in that happiest of modern 
European states in the face of the lowest European birth-rate 
(26 per 1,000), he would have been the first, we douiit not, to 
retract these crude expressions, and to see wherein tnie virtue 

M. Condorcet seems to have entertained some very hopeful 
ideas as to the j^erfectibility of the human frame, and to have 
thought that though man would not become absolutely 
immortal, yet that the duration between his birth and his 
natural death would increase without ceasing, would have no 
natural term, and might properly be expressed by the term 
indefinite. Malthus demurs to these speculations. He thinks 
that the average duration of human life will, to a certain 
extent, vary from healthy or unhealthy climates, from whole- 
some or unwholesome food, from virtuous or vicious manners, 
«!ul from other causes ; but it may be fairl}' doubted whether 
there has been really the smallest perceptible advance in tlie 
natural duration of human life since we had any authentic 
liistory of man. " What can we reason but from what we know ?" 


" The capacity of improvement in plants and animals, to 
a certain extent, no person can possibly doubt. A clear 
and decided progress has already been made, and yet I 
think that it would be highly absurd to say that this progress- 
has no limits. . . The error does not seem to lie in supposing 
a small degree of improvement possible, but in not discrimi- 
nating between a small improvement, the limit of whicli is. 
undefined, and an improvement really unlimited. As the 
human race could not be improved in the same way as the 
domestic animals, without condemning all the bad specimen* 
to celibacy, it is not probable that an attention to breed should 
ever become general." Here, again, we prefer the injunction, 
of Professor Mantegazza to consumptive parents : ' Anjntc 
ma non generate' ('Marry but do not reproduce'). Tlie- 
speculations of Condurcet seem, to a certain extent, to have- 
been revived in modern days by iMr. H. Spencer and Dr. B. W. 
Kichardson. The former of these distinguished authors seems 
to look forward to a time when tlie wants of mankind shall by 
the process of evolution become equated to their powers of 
acquiring food, without calling in the will ; and Dr. Richard- 
son seems to look forward to a far greater longevity for indi- 
viduals of the human species than has been experienced in 
its past history. 

" When paradoxes of this kind (says Malthus) are advanced 
by ingenious and able men, neglect has no tendency to con- 
vince them of their mistakes. Priding themselves on what 
they conceive to be a mark of the make and size of their own 
understandings, of the extent and comprehensiveness of their- 
views, they will look upon this neglect merely as an indication 
of poverty and narrowness of the mental exertions of their 
contemporaries, and only think that the world is not yet pre- 
pared to receive their sublime truths. On the contrary, a. 
candid investigation of these subjects, accompanied with a. 
perfect readiness to adopt anything warranted by sound 
philosophy, may have a tendency to convince them that in. 
forming unfounded and improbable hypotheses, so far fron>. 
enlaro'ing the bounds of science, they are contracting it ; so fat 
from promoting the improvement of the human mind, they 
are obstructing it ; they are throwing us back again almost, 
into the infancy of knowledge, and weakening the founda- 
tions of that mode of philosophising under the auspices of 
which science has of late made such rapid advance. The late- 
rage for wide and unrestrained speculation seems to have been 
a kind of mental intoxication, arising perhaps from the great 


and unexpected discoveries which had been made in varioup^ 
branches of science. To men elate and inspired with such 
successes, everything appears to be within the grasp of human 
powers, and under this illusion they confounded subjects where 
no real piogress could be proved with those where the pro- 
gross liad been marked, certain and acknowledged." 

The groat antagonist of Mr. Malthus at the commencement 
of this century was Mr. Godwin, who, in his work on Political 
Justice^ gives a magnificent picture of a system of equality, 
which, by his account, is to regenerate society. On page 458 
ofbooklV. of that work Mr. Godwin thus speaks: — *' The 
spirit of oppression, the spirit of servility, and the spirit of 
fraud, then, are the immediate growth of the established 
administration of property. They are alike hostile to 
intellectual improvement. The other vices of envy, malice^ 
and revenge are their inseparable companions. In a state of 
society where men lived in the midst of plenty, and where all 
shared alike the bounties of nature, these sentiments would 
inevitably expire. The narrow principle of selfishness would 
vanish. No man being obliged to guard his little store, or 
provide with anxiety or pain for his restless wants, each 
would lose his individual existence in the thought of the 
general good. No man would be an enemy to his neighbours,, 
for they would have no subject of contention ; and, of con- 
sequence, philanthropy would resume the empire which reason 
assigns her. Mind would be delivered from her perpetual 
anxiety about corporeal support, and free to expatiate in the 
field of thou(!;ht which is congenial to her. Each would assist 
the inquiries of all." 

The great error, as Malthus observes, under which Mi- 
Godwin labors throughout his whole work is in attributing 
almost all the vices and miseries that prevail in civil society ta 
human institutions. Political regulations, and the established 
administration of property, are, with him, the fruitful sources 
of all evil, the hotbed of all the crimes that degiade man^ 
kind. " Man cannot live (says Malthus) in the midst of 
plenty. All cannot shaie alike the bounties of nature. Were 
there no established administration of property, every man. 
would be obliged to guard with force his little store. Selfish- 
ness would be triumphant. The subjects of contention would 
be perpetual. Every individual would be under a constant 
anxiety about corporeal support, and not a single intellect 
would be left free to expatiate in the field of thought." 

Mr. Godwin supposed that the population difficulty wouldl 


only become of importance at some remote future. '' Three- 
fourths of the habitable globe are now uncultivated. The 
parts already cultivated are capable of immeasurable im- 
provement. Myriads of centuries of still increasing .popula- 
tion may pass away, and the earth be still found sufficient for 
the subsistence of its inhabitants." Mr. Malthus asks us to 
imagine for a moment Mr. Godwin's S3^stem of eqnalit}'- 
realised in its utmost extent, and see how soon the difficulty 
•of population might be expected to press upon us under so 
perfect a form of society. 

Let us suppose, he saj's, all the causes of vice and misery 
in this island removed. " War and contention cease. Un- 
wholesome trades and manufactories do not exist. Crowds no 
longer collect together in great and pestilent cities for purposes 
■of Court intrigue, of commerce, and vicious gratification. 
Simple, healthy, and rational amusements take place of drink- 
ing, gambling, and debauchery. There are no towns sufficiently 
large to have any prejudicial effects on the human constitution. 
"The greater part of the happy inhabitants of this terrestrial 
Paradise live in hamlets and farm-houses, scattered over the 
face of the country. All men are equal. The labors of luxury 
are at an end, and the necessary labors of agriculture are shared 
-amicably among all. The number of persons and the produce 
■of the island we suppose to be the same as at present. '* The 
sjDirit of benevolence guided b}' impartial justice will divide 
this produce among all the members of society according to 
■their wants. Though it would be impossible that they should 
all have animal food every day, yet vegetable food, with meat 
occasionally, would satisfy the desires of a frugal people, and 
would be sufficient to preserve them in health, strength, and 

" Mr. Godwin considers marriage as a fraud and a monopoly. 
Let us suppose the commerce of the sexes established upon 
"principles of the most perfect freedom. Mr. Godwin does not 
think himself that this freedom would lead to a promiscuous 
ntercourse, and in this I perfectly agree with him. The love 
•of variety is a vicious, corrupt, and unnatural taste, and conld 
not prevail in any great degree in a simple and virtuou«i state 
■of society. Each man would probabl3' select for himself a 
partner to whom he would adhere, as long as that adherence 
•continued to be the choice of both parties. It would be of 
little consequence, according to Mr. Godwin, how many 
children a woman had, or to Avhom the}^ belonged. Provisions 
■andassistance would spontaneously flow from the quarter in 


which they abounded to the quarter in which they were 
deficient, and every man according to his capacity would be 
ready to furnish instruction to the rising generation." 

'*! cannot conceive a form of society so favorable upon the 
whole to population. The irremediableness of marriage, as it 
is at present constituted, undoubtedly deters many from enter- 
ing into this state. An unshackled intercourse, on the 
-contrary, would be a most powerful incitement to early attach- 
ments, and as we are supposing no anxiety about the future 
support of children to exist, I do not conceive that there would 
be one woman in a hundred, of twenty-three years of age, 
without a family." 

'' With these extraordinary encouragements to population, 
and every cause of depopulation, as we have supposed, removed, 
the numbers would necessarily increase faster than in any 
•society that has ever yet been known. 1 have before men- 
tioned that the inhabitants of the back settlements of America 
appear to double their numbers in fifteen years. England is 
•certainly a healthier country than the back settlements of 
America ; and as we have supposed every house in the island 
to be airy and wholesome, and the encouragements to have a 
famil}^ greater even than in America, no probable reason can 
be assigned why the population should not double itself in less, 
if possible, than fifteen years." . . . '' It is probable that 
'the half of every man's time (in a system of equality) must be 
•employed for this purpose (in agriculture). Yet with such a 
much greater exertion, a person who is acquainted with the 
nature of the soil of the country, and who reflects on the 
fertility of the lands already in cultivation, and the barrenness 
■ of those that are not cultivated, will be very much disposed to 
doubt whether the whole average produce could possibly be 
•doubled in twenty years from the present period. The only 
• chance of success would be from the ploughing up most of the 
grazing countries, and putting an end almost entirely to 
animal food. Yet this scheme would probably defeat itself. 
The soil of England will not produce much without dressing ; 
and cattle seem to be necessary to make that species of manure 
which best suits the land. 

" Alas, what becomes of the picture, where men lived in the 
midst of plenty, when no man was obliged to provide with 
•anxiety and pain for his restless wants ; when the narrow 
principles of selfishness did not exist ; when the man was 
delivered from his perpetual anxiety for corporal support, and 
■free to expatiate in the field of thought which is so congenial 


to him ? This beauiifnl fabric of the imaginatiou vanishes at 
the severe touch of truth. . . . The children are sickly 
from insufficient food. The rosy flush of health gives place to 
the pallid cheek and hollow eye of misery." 

In as short a period as liftj' years the whole of the worst 
evils of society will certainly re-appear, if population be not 
checked (says Malthus) by moral restraint, vice, or misery. 
After showing that a regime of equality would inevitably end 
in these shallows, so long as the birth-rate was not restricted, 
Malthns contends that some such laws of jDrivate property, as. 
those which at present exist, would be certain to re-appear and 
misery to be increased. He then continues to give the best 
account of the irrevocable contract of marriage, with which we- 
are familiar, that any writer has ever attempted to give. 

" The next subject which would come under discussion, 
intimately connected with the preceding, is the commerce of 
the sexes. It would be urged by tho^se who had turned their 
attention to the true cause of the difficulties under which the- 
community labored, that while every man felt secure that all 
his children would be well provided for by general bene- 
volence, the powers of the earth would be absolutely inadequate 
to produce food for the population which would inevitably 
ensue ; that even if the whole attention and labor of the 
society were directed to this sole point, and if by the most 
perfect security of property, and every other encouragement 
that could be thought of, the greatest possible increase of pro- 
duce were yearly obtained ; yet still the increase of food would 
by no means keep pace with the much more rapid increase of 
population ; that some check to population, therefore, was 
imperiously called for; that the most natural and obvious 
check seemed to be to make every man provide for his own 
children ; that this would operate in some respect as a. 
measure and a guide in the increase of population, as it might, 
be expected that no man would bring beings into the world 
for whom he could not find the means of support ; that when 
this, notwithstanding, was the case, it seemed necessary, for 
the example of others, that the disgrace and inconvenience 
attending such conduct should fall upon that individual who 
had thus inconsiderately plunged himself and his innocent 
children into want and misery. The institution of marriage, 
or at least of some express or implied obligation on every man 
to support his own children, seems to be the natural result of 
these reasonings, in a community under the difficulties that we- 
have supposed.'' 


Mr. Malthus then proceeds with his theory of the reason 
why society punishes carelessness in sexual relations much 
more in the case of a woman than in that of a man. *' The 
view of these difficulties presents ns with a very natural 
reason why the disgrace which attends a breach of chastity 
should be greater in a woman than in a man. It could not be 
expected that a woman should have resources sufficient to 
support her own children. When, therefore, a woman had 
lived with a man who had entered into no compact to main- 
tain her children ; and aware of the inconveniences that he 
might bring upon himself, had deserted her, those children 
must necessarily fall upon the society for support or starve. 
And to prevent the frequent recurrence of such an incon- 
venience, as it would be highly unjust to punish so natural 
a fault b}'- personal restraint or infliction, society might agree 
to punish it with disgrace. The defence is besides more 
obvious and conspicuous in the woman, and less liable to aiiy 
mistike. The father of a child may not always be known ; 
hut the same uncertainty cannot easily exist with regard to 
the mother. Where the evidence of the offence was most 
complete, and the inconvenience to society at the same time 
the greatest, there it was agreed that the largest share of blame 
should fall. The obligation on every man to support his 
children the society would enforce by positive law, and the 
greater degree of inconvenience or labor to which a family 
would necessarily subject him, added to some feature of dis- 
grace, which every human being must incur who leads 
another into unhappiness, might be considered as a sufficient 
punishment for the man. 

** That a woman should at present be almost driven from 
society for an offence which men commit nearly with impunity, 
seems to be undoubtedly a breach of natural justice. But the 
origin of the custom, as the most obvious and effectual method 
of preventing the frequent recurrence of a serious inconvenience 
to a community, appears to be natural, though not perhaps 
perfectly justifiable. This origin, however, is now lost in the 
new train of ideas that the custom has since generated. What 
at first sight might be dictated by state necessity is now sup- 
ported by female delicacy, and operates with the greatest force 
on that part of the society, where, if the original intention of 
the custom were preserved, there is the least occasion for it." 

These most ingenious speculations of our author contain un- 
doubtedly a great deal of truth in them. At the same time, 
it is clear that when society shall begin to replace traditional 


views of morality by more positive and scientific deductions- 
from experience, when it shall be generally acknowledged in 
all civilised states of the old world that the basis of true- 
morality must consist in that conduct which will keep the birth- 
rate very low, Mr. Malthus's arguments in favour of irre- 
vocable marriage and excessive severity towards those who 
prefer not to enter the imperfect marriage arrangements of 
modern European countries, with a full knowledge of what 
they are doing, must be gradually replaced by some law which 
shall affix a stigma, not so much upon illegitimacy, but rather 
upon the production of large families. Those who are well 
acquainted with the modern position of the marriage question in 
Europe, and who have studied what has been written on it by 
Wilheliii von Humboldt and J. S. Mill, will readily acknow- 
ledge that, if society would but take care to stigmatise as- 
immoral all those persons who take more than a very moderate 
share of the blessings of parentage in old countries, it might, as 
Humboldt proposes, entirely withdraw from all legal interfer- 
ence in the contracts between the sexes. Moral obligations might 
still remain in full force towards those who have been led to 
base their future life on the implied continuance of such 
contracts ; but doubtless the law of civilised states is at present 
tending towards far greater faciiitj' of dissolving such con- 
tracts than Mr. Malthus seems to have approved of. 

In chapter III. of book III. our author disposes of the 
so-called '' futurit}^ fallac}'," which unfortunately still con- 
tinues to be opposed to the teachings of the economists, as if 
it had not been over and over again refuted by the author of 
the essa}"- on population. " Other persons," says our author, 
*' besides Mr. Godwin have imagined that I looked to certain 
j^eriods in future when population would exceed the means of 
subsistence in a much greater degree than at present, and that 
the evils arising from the principle of population were rather 
in contemplation than in existence ; but this is a total mis- 
conception of my argument. Poverty, and not absolute 
famine, is the specific effect of the principle of population, as 
I have before endeavoured to show. jMany countries are now 
suffering all the evils that can ever be expected to flow from 
this principle, and even if we were arrived at the absolute 
limit to all further increase of produce, a point which we shall 
certainly never reach, I should by no means expect that those 
evils would be in anv marked manner ao;o;ravated. The 
increase of produce in most European countries is so very 
slow, compared with what would be required to support an 


unrestricted increase of people, that the checks which are 
constantly in action to repress the population to the level of a 
produce increasing so slowly would have very little more to 
do in wearing it down to a produce absolutely stationary." 

The great historian Hume had pointed out that in those 
countries where infanticide was permitted by law, there was 
greater over-population than in others where it was pro- 
hibited, because parents weie too humane to betake themselves 
to such a frightful •' positive check." The excessive poverty 
of China, where the custom of infanticide prevails, is an 
example of the truth of Mr. Hume's remarks. ''It is still, 
however, true/' adds our author (p. 139), "that the ex- 
pedient is, in its own nature, adequate to the end for which it 
was cited, but to make it so in fact, it must be done by the 
magistrate, and not left to the parents. The almost invariable 
tendency of this custom to increase population, when it depends 
entirely upon the parents, shows the extreme pain which they 
muet feel in making such a sacrifice, even when the distress 
arising from excessive poverty may be supposed to have 
deadened in great measure their sensibility. What must the 
pain be then upon the supposition of the interference of a. 
magistrate, or of a positive law, to make parents destroy a 
child, which they feel the desire and think they possess the 
power of supj)orting ? The permission of infanticide is bad 
enough and cannot but have a bad effect on the moral sen- 
sibility of a nation : but I cannot conceive anything more 
detestable or shocking to the feelings than any direct regula- 
tion of this kind, although sanctioned by the names of Plato 
and Aristotle." 

It is a singular fact that Mr. Godwin {Reply, p. 70), made 
a supposition respecting the number of children that might be 
allowed to each prolific marriage. That writer, however, did 
not enter into any detail as to the mode by which a greater 
number might be prevented. The last check which Mr. 
Godwin mentions, Mr. Malthtis feels persuaded is the only, 
one which that author would seriously recommend. It is 
" That sentiment, whether virtue, prudence, or pride, which 
continually restrains the universality and frequent rejjetition of 
the marriage contract." He says he entirely approves of this 
check, and adds that the tendency to early marriage is so 
strong that we want every possible help that we can get to 
counteract it ; and therefore he thinks that a system of equality 
like that proposed by Mr. Godwin, which tends to weaken the 
foundations of private property, and to lessen in any degree 


the full advantage and superiority which each individual may 
•derive from his prudence, must remove the only counteracting 
weight to the passion of love that can be depended upon for 
■any essential effect. 

Mr. Godwin acknowledges that in his system " the ill con- 
sequences of a numerous family will not come so coarsely 
home to each man's individual interest as they do at present." 
Mr. Malthus is sorry to say that from what we know hitherto 
of the human character, we can have no rational hopes of 
success without this coarse application to individual interest. 

In our author's day it was out of the question for him to be 
aware that Mr. Godwin's hint as to the limitation of the 
family would come to be the prominent social doctrine it has 
iince become. In France, amoug tie "espectable classes the 
production of a large family is now looked upon as quite a 
mark of a low state of morality and culture ; and so effectual 
has this public opinion become in that most remarkable state 
that the families of the professional classes are not even two 
on an average (1.74). That Mr. Malthus should have con- 
sidered late marriage as the only remedy for poverty i« 
easily understood. Experience alone can enable mankind to 
judge of how happiness is to be best attained ; and it was 
doubtless because our incompaiable writer on social questions, 
Mr. J. S. Mill, had so long resided in France that he could 
take the decided stand he did against the large families which 
cause such terrible misery in England and Germany. The 
result of this great prudence among the better classes of 
France is well shown by the very small excess of births over 
deaths. Thus, in 1879, the increase of population from this 
cause was but 92,000, whereas M. Yves Guyot speaks of a 
total of births in 1879 in unfortunate Ireland of 887,055, 
with a total of deaths of 500,^48, which gives an excess of 
births over deaths, in a population of about five millions, of 
386,707. No wonder that Ireland is so fond of emigration 
and still so steeped in poverty. 

It has recently been contended by the author of the 
** Elements of Social Science " that the only way of raising 
wages and profits in old countries and making life a desirable 
thing to all lies in the state making it an offence, to be 
punished by a small fine, to bring into an overcrowded 
country more than a very moderate average number of 
children. Mr. J. S. Mill's teachings tended in the same 
direction, and this view of the duty of the citizen towards his 
neighbour is fast becoming a piece of morality accepted by 



the most thinking and most dutiful portion of society. When 
tnis duty of limiting our offspring, not only to the income 
we possess, but also to the powers possessed by the com- 
munity, of affording an increase of numbers, becomes a 
political question, then, but not until then, will happiness fop 
the masses be possible. 

66 THS LISE A^D WiiiTlKtia 



IN Chapter V. of Mr. Malthus's book iii., vre have thes& 
luminous remarks of his on Poor Laws, which have been 
80 often quoted by statesmen and jDhilanthropists : — 

" It is," says our author, " a subject often started in con- 
versation, and mentioned always as a matter of great surprise,, 
that, notwithstanding the immense sum which is annually 
collected for the poor in this country, there is still so much 
distress among them. But a man who looks a little below the 
surface of things would be much more astonished if the fact 
were otherwise than it is showed to be, or even if a collection 
universally of eighteen shillings in the pound, instead of four, 
were materially to alter it. Suppose that by a subscription of 
the rich, the eighteen pence or two shillings which men earn 
now were made up to four shillings, it might be imagined, 
perhaps, that they would then be able to live comfortably, 
and have a piece of meat every day for their dinner. But this 
would be a very false conclusion. The transfer of three ad- 
ditional shillings a day to each labourer would not increase 
the quantity of meat in the country. There is not at present 
enough for all to have a moderate share. What would then 
be the consequence ? The competition among the buyers in 
the market of meat would rapidly raise the price from Sd. or 
9d. to two or three shillings in the pound, and the commodity 
would not be divided among many more people than at- 

" When an article is scarce, and cannot be distributed to all, 
he that can show the most valid patent, that is, he that offers 
the most money, becomes the possessor . . . and when 
subsistence is scarce in jDroportion to the number of the people, 
it is of little consequence whether the lowest members of the 
society possess two shillings or five. They must, at all events, 
be reduced to live upon the hardest fare and in the smallest 

" A collection from the rich of eighteen shillings in the 
pound, even if distributed in the most judicious manner, 
would have an effect similar to that resulting from the suppo- 


eition which I have just made: and no possible sacrifices of 
the rich, particularly iu money, would for an}' time prevent 
the recurrence of distress among the lower members of society, 
whoever they were. Great changes might, indeed, be made. 
The rich might become poor and some of the poor rich ; but 
while the present proportion between population and food con- 
tinues, a part of society must necessarily find it difficult to 
support a family, and this difficulty will naturally fall on the 
least fortunate members." 

Malthus mentions that in a great scarcity which occurred in 
England in 1801, no less than ten millions sterling were given 
away in charity. In one case cited by our author, a man with 
a family received fourteen shillings a week from his parish. 
His common earnings were ten shillings a week, and his 
weekly revenue therefore twenty-four. Before the scarcity 
he had been in the liabit of purchasing a bushel of flour a 
week, with eight shillings perhaps, and consequently had tw* 
shillings out of his ten to spare for other necessaries. During 
the scarcity he was enabled to purchase the same quantity at 
nearly three times the price. He paid twenty-two shillings 
■for his bushel of flour, and had as before two shillings remain- 
ing for other wants. 

' The price of labour, says Malthus, when left to find its natu- 
ral level, is a most important political barometer, explaining 
the relations between the supply of provisions and the demand 
for them : between the quantity to be consumed and the num- 
ber of consumers : and, taken on the average, it further ex- 
presses clearly the wants of society respecting jjopulation — 
that is, whatever may be the number of children to a marriage 
necessary to maintain exactlj'^ the present population, the price 
of labour will be just sufficient to support this number, or be 
above it or below it, according to the state of the real funds 
for the maintenance of labour, whether stationary, progressive, 
or retrograde. . *' Instead, however, of considering it in this 
light, we consider it as something which we may raise or 
depress at pleasure, something which depends principally 
upon his Majesty's justices of the peace. When an advance 
in the price of proyisons already expresses that the demand is 
too great for the supply, in order to put the labourer in the 
game position as before, we raise the price of labour ; that is, 
we increase the demand, and are then much surprised that 
the price of provisions continues rising. In this we act much 
in the same manner as if, when the quicksilver in the 
common glass stood at * stormy,' we were to raise it by some 


mechanical pressure to * settled fair,' aud then be greatly- 
astonished that it continued raining." 

'' In the natural order of things, a scarcity must tend to 
lower, instead of to raise, the price of labour. Many men who 
would shrink at the proposal of a maximum would propose 
themselves that the price of labour should be proportioned to 
the price of provisions, and do not seem to be aware that the 
two proposals are very nearly of the same nature, and that 
both tend directly to famine. It matters not whether we 
enable the labourer to purchase the same quantity of pro- 
visions which he did before by fixing their price, or by rais- 
ing in proportion the price of labour." 

These arguments of Mr. Malthus were a death-blow to the 
frightful system of the rate in aid of wages which at the early 
part of the present century was fast turning England into the 
most pauper-ridden country in Europe. 

In Chapter VI. of Book iii., Malthus remarks that, indepen- 
dently of any considerations respecting a year of deficient 
crops, it is evident that an increase of population without a 
proportional increase of food must lower the value of each 
man's earnings. The food must necessaiily be distributed in 
smaller quantities, and consequently a day's labour will pur- 
chase a smaller quantity of provisions. An increase in the 
price of provisions will arise either from an increase of popu- 
lation faster than the means of subsistence, or from a different 
distribution of the money of the society. 

Speaking uf the Poor Laws of ISUo, hesays: "The Poor 
Laws of England tend to depress the general condition of the 
poor in two ways. Their fii'st obvious tendency is to increase 
population without increasing the food for its support. A poor 
man may marry with little or no prospect of being able to 
support a family without parish assistance. They maybe said, 
therefore, to create the poor which they maintain ; and as the 
provisions of the country must, in consequence of the increased 
population be distributed to every man in smaller proportions, 
it is evident that the labour of those who are not supported by 
parish assistance will purchase a smaller quantity of provisions 
than before, and consequently many of them must be driven 
to apply for assistance. 

*' Secondly, the quantity of provisions consumed in work- 
aouse.s, upon a part of the society that cannot be considered the 
most valuable part, diminishes the shares that would otherwise 
belontr to the more industrious and more worthy members, and 


this, in the same manner, forces more to become depenrlent. 
If the poor in the workhouses were to live better than thev do 
now, this new distribution of the monev of the society would 
tend more conspicuously to depress the condition "^of those 
out of the workhouse, by occasioning an advance in the price 
of provisions." 

Fortunately for England, says our author, a spirit of inde- 
pendence still remains among the peasantry. The poor laws 
are strongly calculated to eradicate this spirit. " They have 
succeeded in part : but had they succeeded as completely as 
might have been expected, their pernicious tendency would 
not have been so long concealed." 

The following paragraph has often been cited by violent 
democrats as a proof of the hard-heartedness of Mai thus. At 
present, few of the ultra-liberal party in this country are ill- 
instructed enough to vituperate any one for his opinions in 
this matter. " Hard as it may appear," he continues, " in in- 
dividual cases, dependent poverty ought to be held disgraceful. 
Such a stimulus seems to be absolutely necessary to promote 
the happiness of the general mass of mankind: and every 
general attempt to weaken this stimulus, however benevolent 
its intention, will always defeat its own purpose. If men be 
induced to marry from the mere prospect of parish provision, 
they are not only unjustly tempted to bring unhappiness and 
dependence upon themselves and children, but they are 
tempted, without knowing it, to injure all in the same class 
with themselves." 

It is very probable that the independence of character of the 
English labouring classes was fatally lowered by the system 
Malthus complains of, for to this very day, in many counties, 
the following experience of our author holds good. '' The 
labouring poor, to use a vulgar expression, seem always to live 
from hand to mouth. Their present wants employ their whole 
attention ; and they seldom think of the future. Even when 
they have an opportunity of suving they seldom exercise it ; 
but all that they earn beyond their present necessities goes, 
generally speaking, to the alehouse. The poor laws may, 
therefore, be said to diminish both the power and the will to 
save among the common people, and thus to weaken one of 
the strongest incentives to sobriety and industry, and conse- 
quently to happiness." 

No wonder that Thomas Chalmers, the great Scottish 
economist, struggled so hard against the introduction of the 


English poor laws into Scotland. That poor law in Scotland 
is at present worse administered than it even is in England, 
and has done much to create a pauper class. There is, indeed, 
but little prospect of another poet like Burns arising in 
modern Scotland. " The Cotters' Saturday Night " was 
composed when the parish gave discriminating relief onlj to 
the worthy and necessitous. 

" These evils," says Malthus, "attendant on the poor laws 
seem to be irremediable. If assistance is to be distributed to 
a certain class of people, a power must be lodged somewhere 
of discriminating the proper objects, and of managing the 
concerns of the institutions that are necessary ; but any great 
interference with the affairs of other people is a species of 
tyranny, and in the common course of things, the exercise of 
this power may be expected to become grating to those who 
are driven to ask for support. The tyranny of justices, church- 
wardens, and overseers, is a common complaint among the poor ; 
but the fault does not lie so much in these persons, who pro- 
bably before they were in power were not more cruel than other 
people, but in the nature of all such institutions. I feel per- 
suaded that if the poor laws had never existed in this country, 
though there might have been a few more instances of very 
severe distress, the aggregate mass of happiness among the 
common people would have been much greater than it is at 

The famous 43rd of Elizabeth, which has been so often 
referred to and admired, enacts that the overseers of the poor 
*' shall take order from time to time, by and with the consent 
of two or more justices, for setting to work the children of all 
such whose parents shall not by the said persons be thought 
able to keep and maintain their children ; and also such 
persons married or unmarried, as having no means to maintain 
them, use no ordinary and daily trade of life to get their 
living by. And also to raise, weekly or otherwise, by taxation 
of every inhabitant, and every occupier of lands in the said 
parish (in such competent sums as they shall think fit) a 
convenient stock of flax, hemp, wax, thread, iron, and other 
necessary ware and stuff, to set the poor to work." 

" What is this," exclaims Malthus, " but saying that the 
funds for the maintenance of labour in this country may be 
increased at will, and without limit, by a Jia/ of Government, 
or an assessment of the overseers. Strictly speaking, this 
clause is as arrogant and as absurd as if it had enacted thai 


-two ears of wheat should grow where one only had grown 
before. Canute, when he commanded the waves not to wet 
his princely foot, did not, in reality, assume a greater power 
over the laws of nature. No directions are given to the over- 
seers how to increase the funds for the maintenance of labour ; 
the necessity of industry, economy, and enlightened exertion, 
in the management of agricultural and commercial capital, is 
not insisted on for this purpose ; but it is expected that a 
■miraculous increase of these funds should immediately follow 
an edict of the Grovernment, used at the discretion of some 
ignorant parish officers.'* 

Mr. Malthus adds to these denunciations of the Poor Law 
Act of Elizabeth, as carried out in 1805, the following: 
** If this clause were really and bond fide put into exe- 
cution, and the shame attending the receiving of parish 
relief worn off, every labouring man might marry as early as 
he pleased, under the certain prospect of having all his child- 
ren properly provided for ; and, as according to the supposition, 
there would be no check on population from the consequences 
•of poverty after marriage, the increase of population would 
be rapid beyond example in old States. After what has been 
said in the former part of this work, it is submitted to the 
reader whether the utmost exertions of the enlightened go- 
vernment could, in this case, make the food keep pace with 
the population, much less a more arbitrary effort, the tendency 
of which is certainly rather to diminish than to increase the 
funds for the maintenance of productive labour." 

In the year 1880 it was found by the census of our most 
flourishing colony of New Zealand that the population of those 
fertile islands had actually been able to double in eleven 
years. But, as Mr. Malthus observes : " After a country has 
once ceased to be in the peculiar situation of a new colony, we 
Bhall always find that in the actual state of its cultivation, or 
in that state which may rationally be expected from the most 
enlightened government, the increase of its food can never 
allow for any length of time an unrestricted increase of po- 
pulation, and, therefore, the due execution of the clause in 
the 43rd of Elizabeth, as a permanent law, is a physical 

One only circumstance, Mr. Malthus seems to think, in the 
administration of the English Poor Laws at the commence- 
ment of this century prevented them from plunging the coun- 
try into ruin. This was the condition that they contained 
that each parish should maintain its own poor. " As each 


pa]-ish he says, ''is obliged to maintain its own poor, it i^ 
naturally fearful of increasing their numbers, and every land- 
holder IS, m consequence, more inclined to pull down than to 
build cottages. This deficiency of cottages operates neces- 
sarily as a strong check to marriage, and this olieck is probably 
the principal reason why we have been able to continue tho- 
system of the poor laws so long." 

Mr. Malthus' writings made such a powerful impression on 
the minds of his contemporaries, that in 1834 an entire revo- 
lution took place in the Poor Laws of England and Wales 
Mr. Gladstone, m an admirable speech on Free Trade deb 
yered in Leeds in the summer of 1881, refers to the passino- oi 
this Act as the most beneficent change that had preceded'the 
Jong and earnest struggle which immediately followed upon 
the principles of Free Trade, and which culminated in 1846- 
m the abolition of the duties on food supplies. Mr. John 
btuart Mill is enthusiastic in his admiration of the Act of 1834 
In his magnificent and well known chapter on Popular Eeme 
dies for Low Wages (Book ij. chap. 12, § 2.), he thus speaks- 
of the English Law of 1884 :•— 

''To give profusely to the people, whether under the namo 
ot charity or of employment, without placing them under such 
influences that prudential motives shall act powerfully upon 
them, is to lavish the means of benefiting mankind without 
attainmg the object. Leave the people in a situation in which 
their condition manifestly depends upon their number, and the 
greatest permanent benefit may be derived from any sacrifice- 
made to improve the physical well-being of the present vene- 
ration, and raise, by that means, the habits of their children 
But remove the regulation of their wages from their own con- 
trol ; guarantee to them a certain payment, either by law or 
by the feeling of the community ; and no amount of comfort 
that you can give them will make either them or their de- 
scendents look to to their own self-restraint as the proper 
means for preserving them in that state. You will only make 
them indignantly claim the continuance of your guarantee to- 
themselves, and their full complement of possible'^posterity." 

" On these grounds some writers have altogether condemned, 
the English Poor Law, and any system of relief to the able- 
bodied, at least when uncombined with systematic legal pre- 
cautions against over-population. The fainous Act of the 43rd 
of Elizabeth undertook, on the part of the public, to provide 
work and wages for all the able-bodied : and there is little 
doubt that li the intent of that Act had been fully carried out 


and no means had been adopted by the administrators of relief 
to neutralize its natural tendencies, the poor-rate would by 
this time have absorbed the whole net produce of the land and 
labour of the country." 

" It is not at all surprising, therefore, that Mr. Malthus and 
others should at first have concluded against all Poor Laws 
whatever. It required much experience, and careful examina- 
tion of different, modes of Poor Law management, to give 
assurance that the admission of an absolute right to be sup- 
ported at the cost of other people could exi«t in law and in 
fact, without fatally relaxing the springs of industry and the- 
restraints of prudence. This, however, was fully substantiated 
by the investigations of the original Poor Law Commissioners. 
Hostile as they are unjustly accused of being to the principle 
of legal relief, they are the first who fully proved the com« 
Ijatibility of any Poor Law in which a right to relief was 
recognised with the permanent interests of the labouring class 
and of posterity." 

" By a collection of facts, experimentally ascertained in 
parishes scattered throughout England, it was shown that the 
guarantee of support could be freed from its injurious effects 
upon the minds and habits of the people, if the relief, thougli 
ample in respect to necessaries, was accompanied with con- 
ditions which they disliked, consisting of some restraints on. 
their freedom, and the privation of some indulgences." 

** Under this proviso it may be regarded as irrevocably es- 
tablished that the fate of no member of the community need, 
be abandoned to chance ; that society can and therefore ought 
to ensure every individual belonging to it against the extreme 
of want ; that the condition, even of those who are unable to- 
find their own support, need not be one of physical suffering, 
or the dread of it, but only of restricted indulgences and en- 
forced rigidity of discipline. This is surely something gained 
for humanit}^, important in itself, and still more so as a step to 
something beyond ; and humanity has no worse enemies than 
those who lend themselves, either knowingly or unintention- 
ally, to bring odium on this law, or on the principles in which 
it originated." 

"In the actual circumstances of every country (says Mal- 
thus, p. 180, Book iii.) the prolific power of nature seems- 
always ready to exert nearly its full force ; but within 
the limit of possibility, there is nothing, perhaps, more im- 
probable, or more out of the reach of any government to 
effect, than the direction of the industry of its subjects in. 


such a manner as to produce the greatest quantity of sustenance 
that the earth could bear. It evidentl}^ could not be done 
without the most complete violation of the law of property, 
from which everything that is valuable to man has hitherto 
■ arisen. Such is the disposition to marry, particularly in very 
young people, that if the difi&culties of providing for a family 
were entirely removed, very few would remain single at 
twenty-two. But what statesman or rational government 
•could propose that all animal food should be prohibited, that 
no horses should be used for business or pleasure, that all 
people should live upon potatoes, and that the whole industry 
of the nation should be exerted in the production of them, 
•except what was necessary for the mere necessaries of clothing 
• and houses. Could such a revolution be effected, would it be 
•desirable ; particularly as, in a few years, notwithstanding all 
their exertions, want, with less resource than ever, would 
inevitably recur." 

'' The attempts," says our author, " to employ the poor on 
any great sale in manufactures have almost invariably failed, 
and the stock and materials have been wasted. In those few 
parishes which, by better management of larger funds, have 
been enabled to persevere in this system, the effect of these 
new manufactures in the market must have been to throw out 
•of employment many independent workmen, who were before 
•engaged in fabrications of a similar nature. This effect has 
been placed in a strong point of view by Daniel De Foe, in an 
•address to Parliament, entitled Giving Alms no Charity. Speak- 
ing of the employment of parish children in manufactories, he 
.says, * For every skein of worsted these poor children spin 
i;here must be a skein the less spun by some poor family that 
spun it before.' Sir F. M. Eden, on the same subject, ob- 
serves, that whether mops and brooms are made by parish 
•children or by private workmen, no more can be sold than 
the public is in want of." 

" It will be said, perhaps, that the same reasoning might 
be applied to any new capital brought into competition in a 
particular trade or manufacture, which can rarely be done 
without injuring, in some degree, those that were engaged in 
it before. But there is a material difference in the two cases. 
In this, the competition is perfectly fair, and what every man 
•on entering his business must lay his account to. He may 
rest secure that he will not be supplanted, unless his competi- 
tor possess superior skill and industry. In the other case, the 
•competition is supported by a great bounty, by which means, 


aiotwithstandmg very inferior skill and industry on the part 
of his competitors, the independent workman may be under- 
•sold, and unjustly excluded from the market. He himself is 
made to contribute to this competition against his own earn- 
ings, and the funds for the maintenance of labour are thus 
turned from the support of a trade which yields a proper profit 
to one which cannot maintain itself without a bounty. It 
should be observed in general that when a fund for the main- 
■tenance of labour is raised by assessment, the greatest part of 
it is not a new capital brought into trade, but an old one, 
which before was much more profitably employed, turned into 
:a new channel. The farmer pays to the poor's rates for the 
•encouragement of a bad and unprofitable manufacture what 
he would have employed on his land with infinitely more ad- 
vantage to his country. In the one case, the funds for the 
maintenance of labour are daily diminished ; in the other, 
•daily increased. And this obvious tendency of assessments 
for the employment of the poor to decrease the real funds for 
"the maintenance of labour in any country, aggravates the ab- 
surdity of supposing that it is in the power of a government 
to find employment for all its subjects, however fast they may 

It is strange how the present generation begins to forget the 
truths that were clearly seen by the one immediately preceding. 
We have had a proof of this in the late agitation for Protection 
'Versus Free Trade. And on November 5th, 1881, there wai 
auother example so given in the case of a deputation of ratepayeri 
■of Newington, who waited on Mr. Dodson, the President of the 
Xocal Government Board, to ask him to administer out- door re- 
lief instead of building a new workhouse at Champion Hill, at % 
cost of £200,000. The deputation, which actually contained a 
professor of political economy, Mr. Thorold Rogers, urged that 
the system of the workhouse test entailed a cost of 7s. a week to 
the parish, whereas, if persons were relieved at home, 8s. or 4s. 
would be all that would be required. Well might a French eco- 
•nomist write an essay upon '* things that are seen, and things 
that are not seen " ! 

Mr. Dodson, in his able reply to this deputation, tried to teach 
again the lesson taught by the Poor Law Commissioners in 1884, 
that the whole object and system of the Poor Law which was then 
•established In this country was, that it should be strictly admin- 
istered, with a view simply of testing and checking absolute des- 
titution, and no means, no effectual means, had been devised, of 
mo testing destitution, except by offering the house : and just in 


proportion as the poor-law was strictly administered, so in pro- 
portion the entrance to the house was insisted upon as the con- 
dition of relief. In the case of out-door relief it was impossible- 
absolutely to test the case. Out-door relief could not be closely- 
watched. They could not tell, when a man received relief, that 
he was not receiving aid from other sources, that he was not earn- 
ing something for himself, and might possibly, if he were left to- 
his own resources, earn more. This was a system, he said, which 
in that way acted as a check upon exertion and upon provi- 
dence ; and he need not say that anything which acted as a check- 
on these could not result but in the increase of pauperism, the 
demoralisation of the working classes, and in increased charges- 
upon the ratepayers. Of course, he knew that it was very tempt- 
ing, when a case came before them, to relieve a man by out-door 
relief. They might give him Is. 6d. and a loaf, or 2s. ; and if 
they brought him into the house it would of course cost 4s. or 5s., 
and thus the ratepayers would not, for the moment, have so much 
to pay. But the system of the workhouse was not so expensive- 
as that, for we knew that not more than one man in ten would go* 
into the house. Where ten would accept out- door relief, they 
could not get more than one or two who would accept in-door re- 
lief. And, besides, they must further remember this , that if they 
increased the rates by this system, they were making the prudent- 
and industrious man, who maintained himself and his family by 
his own labour, support the idlers and vagrants who did not- 
make similar exertions. He knew how tempting it was to wish 
to save the money of the ratepayers, and at the same time to- 
gratify the feelings of humanity to the poor by giving out-door 
relief, since it often appeared hard and cruel to compel people to 
enter the workhouse, and, as it was said, to *' break up their 
homes." But he, Mr. Dodson, reminded his hearers that, as 
guardians, they had the administration of the ratepayers' money^ 
and not the administration of a benevolent fund. They were not. 
administering a Charity, but were the stewards for the ratepayers, 
and were bound to administer the Poor Law in the manner which,, 
not superficially and for the moment, was the most really eco- 
nomical. The workhouse test was known by experience to be, in 
the long run, the only truly economical and feasible way of ad- 
ministering relief to the destitute. For what, he asked, was the- 
whole history of the modern English Poor Law ? What was the 
condition of England before 1830, when that law was loosely 
administered ? It was a system ruinous to the indigent classes^ 
and destructive to the ratepayers. The Poor Law Commissioners 
had shown that the only way in which the people could be^ 


^aranteed against starvation was by enforcing the workhouse 
test, and thus avoiding the creation of a pauper class too numerous 
to be alleviated. 

It is gratifying to find that Mr. Dodson is so well instructed 
in the affairs of the office in which he holds sway. Doubtless, 
he is also aware of the grand difiicnlty which opposes all State 
assistance of the poor at their own houses, and which consists in 
the utter recklessness still so prevalent among the uneducated 
-classes as to the size of their families. To give out-door relief in 
the present state of public opinion would merely be to offer a 
premium upon large families, and this could, of course, only re- 
sult in early death, degradation of the family, and a relapse into 
barbarism. Even in Australia it has been found possible to raise 
^ip a pauper class by such unwise out-door doles, which are no 
«harity at all, but merely a means to degrade and enslave the 
poorest classes. 





rthe seventh chapter of book III. Mr. Malthus criticises ait 
essay of Adam Smith, on " Increasing Wealth as it Affects- 
the Condition of the Poor." The professed object of Adam 
Smith's enquiry ia the nature and causes of the wealth of 
nations. ** There is another, however, perhaps still more in- 
teresting (says onr author) which he occasionally mixes with 
it. the causes which affect the happiness and comfort of the- 
lower orders of society, which in every nation forms the most 
numerous class. I am sufficiently aware of the near connec- 
tion of these two subjects, and that, generally speaking, the- 
causes which contribute to increase the wealth of a state tend 
also to increase the happiness of the lower classes of the' 
people. But perhaps Dr. Smith has considered these two in- 
quiries as still more nearly connected than they really are ; 
at least he has not stopped to take notice of those instances, 
when the wealth of a society may increase, according to hi&^ 
definition of wealth, without having a proportional tendency 
to increase the comforts of the labouring part of it." 

Malthus observes that the comforts of the labouring poor 
must necessarily depend upon the funds destined for the 
maintenance of labour, and will generally be in proportion to- 
the rapidity of their increase. The demand for labour, which 
such increase occasions, will of course raise the value of 
labour ; and till the additional number of hands required are 
reared, the increased funds will be distributed to the same 
number of persons as before, and therefore every labourer will 
live more at his ease. But Adam Smith was wrong when he 
represented every increase of the revenue or stock of a society,. 
as a proportional increase of these funds. Such surplus stock 
or revenue will indeed always be considered by the indivi- 
dual possessing it, as an additional fund from which he may 
maintain more labour ; but with regard to the whole country, 
it will not be an effectual fund for the maintenance of anr 
additional number of labourers, unless part of it be conver- 
tible into an additional quantity of provisions ; and it will not 
be so convertible when the increase has arisen merely from the 
produce of labour, and not from the produce of land. A dis- 
tinction may in this case occur between the pumber of hands- 
which the stock of a society could employ and the number 
which its territory can maintain. 


" Supposing a nation for a course of years to add what it 
saved from its yearly revenue to its manufacturing capital 
solely, and not to its capital employed on land, it is evident 
that it might grow richer without a power of supporting a 
greater number of labourers, and therefore without any in- 
crease in the real funds for the maintenance of labour. There 
would, notwithstanding, be a demand for labour, from the 
extent of manufacturing capital. This demand would of 
course raise the price of labour; but if the yearly stock of 
provisions in the country were not increasing this rise would 
soon turn out merely nominal, as the price of provisions must 
necessarily rise with it " 

The question is how far wealth increasing in this way has 
a tendency to better the condition of the labouring poor. "It 
is a self-evident proposition, that any general advance in the 
price of labour, the stock of provisions remaining the same, 
can only be a nominal advance, as it must shortly be followed 
by a proportional rise in provisions. Tlie increase in the price 
of labour which we have supposed, would have no permanent 
effect therefore in giving to the labouring poor a greater 
command over the necessaries of life. In this respect they 
would be nearly in the same state as before. In some other 
respects they would be in a worse state. A greater portion of 
them would be employed in manufactures, and a smaller 
portion in agriculture. (The present condition of England 
in 1882.) And this exchange of profession will be allowed, 
I think, by all to be very unfavourable to health, an essen- 
tial ingredient to happiness, and to be further disadvantageous 
on account of the greater uncertainty of manufacturing labour, 
arising from the capricious tastes of man, the accidents of 
war, and other causes which occasionally produce very severe 
distress among the lower classes of society." 

Mr. Malthus then feelingly alludes to the miserable con- 
dition of the poor young operatives in Manchester in his 
day, and to the destruction of the comforts of the family so 
often caused by the women becoming so frequently mere 
hands in mills and quite unacquainted with any household 
work. " The females are wholly uninstructed in sewing, 
knitting, and other domestic affairs, requisite to make them 
notable and frnsjal wives and mothers. This is a very great 
misfortune to them and to the public, as is sadly proved by a . 
comparison of the families of labourers in husbandry, and 
those in manufactures in general. In the former we meet 


with neatness, cleanliness, and comfart: in the latter with 
filth, rags, and poverty, although their wages may be nearly 
double those of the husbandman. In addition to these evils 
we all know how subject particular manufactures are to fail, 
from the caprice of taste, or the accident of war. The 
weavers of Spitalfield were plunged into the most severe dis- 
tress by the fashion of muslins instead of silks ; and numbers 
of the workmen of Sheffield and Birmingham were for a 
time thrown out of employment, from the adoption of shoe 
strings and covered buttons, instead of buckles and metal 
buttons. Under such circumstances, unless the increase of the 
riches of a country from manufactures <<ives the lower classes 
4)f the society, on an average, a decided h' greater command 
over the necessaries and conveniences of life, it will not 
Appear that their condition is improved." 

Mr. Malthus continues : ** It will be said, perhaps, that the 
advance in the price of provisions will immediately turn 
some additional capital into the channel of agriculture, and 
thus occasion a much greater produce. But from experience 
it appears that this is au effect which sometimes follows 
very slowly, particularly if heavy taxes that affect agricul- 
tural industry, and an advance in the price of labour, had 
preceded the advance in the price of provisions. It may also 
be said, that the additional capital of the nation would 
enable it to import provisions sufficient for the maintenance of 
those whom its stock could employ. A small country with a 
large navy, and great accommodation for 'nland carriage, may 
indeed import and distribute an effectual quantity of pro- 
visions ; but in large landed nations, if they may be so-called, 
an importation adequate at all times to the demand is scarcely 

In 1881 the inhabitants of the British Islands had to im- 
port food consisting of live and dead meat, butter, eggs, flour, 
and wheat, &c., at an expense of no less than one hundred 
and thirty-two millions sterling, inclusive of sugar, one of the 
requisites of nutrition, or at the cost of one hundred and 
eight millions sterling without sugar. And yet the price of 
butter was about Is. 6d. the pound and meat about 9d. a 
pound in London, whilst milk sold for 5d. the quart. Thus 
we see how true the words of the great writer on population 
were, even writing before the days of steam and electric 
telegraphs, improvements in the way of obtaining food sup- 
plies that might easily' have made food as cheap here as in 
New Zealand, had it not been for the excessive birth-rat« 


that has been going on for the whole of this centurj in the 
United Kingdom. 

Mr. Malthuts points out that a nation which from its ex- 
tent and population must necessarily support the greater part 
of its population on the produce of its own soil, but which 
yet, in average years, draws a small portion of its corn 
from abroad, is in a more precarious position with regard to 
the constancy of its supplies, than such states as draw almost 
the whole of their provisions from other countries. A nation 
possessed of a large territory is unavoidably subject to this un- 
certainty of its means of subsistence, when the commercial 
part of its population is either equal to, or has increased beyond 
the surplus produce of its cultivators. ''No reserve being in 
these cases left in exportation, the full effect of every deficiency 
from unfavorable seasons must necessarily be felt ; and, although 
the riches of such a country may enable it for a certain period 
to continue raising the nominal rate of wages, so as to give the 
lower classes of the society a power of purchasing imported 
corn at a high price ; yet, a a sudden demand can very seldom 
be fully answered, the competition in the market will in- 
variably raise the price of provisions in full proportion to the 
advance in the price of labor; the lower classes will be but 
little relieved, and the dearth will operate severely throughout 
all the ranks of society. 

According to the natural order of things, years of scarcity 
must occasionally recur in all landed nations. They ought 
always therefore to enter into our consideration; and the 
prosperity of any country ma}' justly be considered as pre- 
carious, in which the funds for the maintenance of labour are 
liable to great and sudden fluctuations from every unfavourable 
variation in the seasons. 

" But putting for the present, years of scarcity out of the 
question. When the commercial population of any country so much beyond the surplus produce of the cultivators, 
that the demand for imported corn is not easily supplied, and 
the price rises in proportion to the rate of wages, no further 
increase of riches will have any tendency to give the laborer a 
greater command over the necessaries of life. In the progress 
of wealth this will naturally take place, either from the large- 
ness of the supply wanted, the increased distance from which 
it is brought, and consequently, the increased expense of im- 
portation ; the greater consumption of it in the countries in 
which it is usually purchased, or, what must unavoidably 


happen, the necessity of a greater distance of inland carriage 
in these countries. Such a nation, by increasing industry in 
the improvement of machinery, may still go on increasing the 
yearly quantity of its manufactured produce ; but its funds for 
the maintenance of labor, and consequently its population, will 
be perfectly stationary. This point is the natural limit to the 
population of all commercial states. In countries at a great 
distance from this limit, an effect approaching to what has been 
here described will take place, whenever the march of com- 
merce and manufactures is more rapid than that of agriculture.'* 

Malthus takes China as an example, that every increase in 
the stock or revenue of a nation cannot be considered as an 
increase of the real funds for the maintenance of labor, and 
therefore cannot have the same good effect upon the condition 
of the poor. China, as Adam Smith remarked, has probably 
long been as rich as the nature of her laws and institutions will 
admit ; although, with other laws and institutions, and on the 
supposition of unshackled foreign commerce, she might still be 
richer, yet, the question is, would such an increase of wealth 
be an increase of the real funds for the maintenance of labor, 
and consequently tend to place the lower classes in China in a 
state of greater plenty ? 

Malthus contends that if trade and foreign commerce were 
held in great honour in China, it is evident that, from the great 
number of laborers, and the cheapness of labor, she might work 
up manufactures for foreign sale to an immense amount. It is 
equally evident, that from the great bulk of provisions, and 
the amazing extent of her inland territory, she could not in 
Tseturn import such a quantity as would be any sensible addition 
to the annual stock of subsistence in the country. "Her 
immense amount of manufactui es therefore, she would exchange 
chiefly for luxuries collected from all parts of the world. At 
present it appears that no labor whatever is spared in the 
production of food. The country is rather over-peopled in 
proportion to what its stock can employ, and labor is therefore 
so abundant that no pains are taken to abridge it. The con- 
sequence of this is probably the greatest production of food that 
the soil can possibly afford ; for it will be generally observed, 
that processes for abridging agricultural labor, though they may 
enable a farmer to bring a certain quantity of grain cheaper to 
market, tend rather to diminish, than increase the whole 
produce. An immense capital could not be employed in China 
in preparing^ manufactures for foreign trade, without taking off 
60 man}' laborers from agriculture, as to alter this state of 


things, and in some degree, to diminish the produce of the 
country. The demand for manufacturing laborers would 
naturally raise the price of labor ; but, as the quantity of sub- 
sistence would not be increased, the price of provisions would 
keep pace with it, or even more than keep pace with it, if the 
quantity of provisions were really decreasing. The country 
would, however, be evidently advancing in wealth. The ex- 
changeable value of the annual produce of its land and labor 
would be annually augmented ; yet the real funds for the 
maintenance of labor would be stationary, or even declining; 
and consequently, the increasing wealth of the nation would 
tend rather to depress than to raise the condition of the poor. 
With regard to the command over the necessaries of life, they 
would be in the same, or rather worse state than before, and a 
great part of them would have exchanged the healthy labor of 
agriculture, for the unhealthy occupations of manufacturing 

The observations of the greatest living Chancellor of the Ex- 
chequer, Mr. W. E. Gladstone, of late years, have frequently 
pointed out to us how very unfair a proportion of the increasing 
wealth of this country has been absorbed by the possessors of cap- 
ital, as compared with that by the recipients of wages. It may 
indeed be said, in the words of Mr. J. S. Mill, that owing to 
the way in which population has increased in this century in 
this country, pari passu with the increase of the wealth of the 
nation, it is doubtful whether all the improvements in 
manufactures and in instruments for abbreviating manual toil 
have taken one hour's work from the shoulders of the working 

"The condition of the poor in China," says Malthus, '^is 
indeed very miserable at present, but this is not owing to their 
want of foreign commerce, but to their extreme tendency to 
marriage and increase ; and if this tendency were to continue 
the same, the only way in which the introduction of a greater 
number of manufacturers could possibly make the lower classes 
of people richer, would be by increasing the mortality among 
them, which is ceitainly not a very desirable mode of growing 
rich." This argument of our author might convince both the 
fair traders and the free traders of this day, that neither free 
trade, nor protection, are panaceas against starvation among the 
poorest classes, and make them learn the lesson that a email 
family system alone can solve the fundamental question of 


man's destiny — how to make the proportion of months to food 
most favorable. 

The argument perhaps appears clearer when applied to- 
China, because it is generally allowed that its wealth has been 
long stationary, and its soil cultivated nearly to the utmost. 
AVith regard to any other country it might always be a matter 
of dispute, at whicl3 of the two periods compared wealth was 
increasing the fastest, for Adam Smith, and others of his- 
followers think that the condition of the poor depends on the 
rapidity of the increase of wealth at any particular epoch. 
Malthus to this replit^s that: '*It is evident that two nations- 
might increase exactly with the same rapidity in the exchange- 
able value of the annual products of their land and labor; yet, 
if one had applied itself chiefly to agriculture, and the other 
chiefly to commerce, the funds for the maintenance of labor,, 
and consequently the effect of the increase of wealth in each 
nation, would be extremely different. In that which had 
applied itself chiefly to agriculture, the poor would live in 
greater plenty, and population vvould rapidly increase. In 
that which had applied itself chiefly to commerce the poor 
would be comparatively but little benefited, and consequently, 
population would either be stationary, or increase very slowly."' 
" The condition," says IMalthus, " of the laboring poor, suppos- 
ing their habits to remain the same, cannot be very essentially 
improved, but by giving them a greater command over the 
means of subsistence. But any advantage of this kind must 
from its nature be temporary, and is therefore really of less 
/alue to them than any permanent change in their habits. But 
manufactures, by inspiring a taste for comforts, tend to pro- 
mote a fav(M-able change in these habits, and in this way 
perhaps c«mnterbalance all their disadvantages. The labor- 
ing classes of society, in nations merely agricultural, are- 
generally on The whole poorer than in manufacturing nations, 
tbougli less subject to those occasional variations which among 
manufacturers often produce the most severe distress. 

There are two chapieis in Malthus's second volume devoted 
to the cousideraticm of the Agricultural and Commercial 
Systems about which so much was written by his contem- 
poraries. Mr. IMakhus says in Chapter VIII. that there are 
none of the definitions of the wealth of a state that are not 
liable to some objections. If the gross produce <>f the land be 
taken as indicating wealth, it is clear that this may increase- 
very rapidly whilst the nation is very poor, and, wealth again 
may increase without tending to increase the funds for the' 


'maintenance ot labor and population. " Whichever of thehe 
definitions is adopted, the position of the economists will remain 
"true, that the ssurphis jirodnce of the cultivators is the ^reat 
fund which ultimately pays all not employed in the land. 
Thronghout the whole world the number of manufacturers, 
of proprietors, and of persons engaged in the various civil and 
mih't ;ry professions must be exactly proportional to the surplus 
) -rod lice, and cnnnot in the natme of things increase beyond 
it. If the earth had been so niggardlj^ of her pi-odiice as to 
oblige all her inhabitants to labor for it, no manufacturer or 
idle persons could ever have existe 1. Bnt her first intercourse 
with man was a voluntary piesent, not ver}' large indeed, but 
suflftcient as a fund for his subsistence, till by the proper 
•exercise of his faculties he could produce a greater. In pro- 
portion as the laboiand ingenuity of man increased, again, the 
land has increased this surjjliis produce; leisure has been given 
to a greater number of ])ersons to employ themselves in all the 
inventions which embellish civilised life ; and, although in its 
tui-n, the desire to profit by these inventions has greatly con- 
tributed to stimulate the cultivators to increase their surplus 
produce ; yet the order of precedence is clearly the surplus 
produce, because the funds for the subsistence of the manu^ 
facturer must be advanced to him before he can complete his 

'' In the history of the world," says Malthus, "the nations 
whose wealth has been derived principally from manufactures 
and commerce, have been perfectly ephemeral beings, compared 
with those whose wealth has been agiiculture. It is in the 
nature of things that a state which subsists upon a revenue 
furnished by other countries, must be infinitely more exposed 
to all the accidents of time and chance, than one which pro- 
duces its own. No error is more frequent than that of mistaking 
effects for causes. We are so blinded by the shrewdness of 
■commerce and manufactures, as to believe that they are almost 
the sole cause of the wealth, power, and prospeiity of England ; 
but perhaps they may be more justly considered as the con- 
sequence, than the cause of the wealth. According to the de- 
finition of the economists, which considers only the produce of 
land, Englam^ is the richest country in Europe, in proportion 
to her size. Her system of agriculture is beyond comparison 
better, aiid consequently, her surplus produce is more con- 
siderable. France is very greatly superior to England in 
•extent of territory and population ; but when the surplus 
produce, or disposable revenue of the two nations are com- 


pared, the superiority of France almost vanishes. According 
to the returns lately made of the population of England and 
Wales, it appears that the number of persons employed in 
agriculture is considerably less than a fifth part of the whole.'^ 

This was written by Malthus in 1806, and it is curious to 
contrast the state of matters which now exists in the 
United Kingdom. In 1881 she consumed 1,740,000 tons 
of meat, and only produced 1,090,000 of these herself. She 
also consumed 607 millions of bushels of grain, and pro- 
duced only 322 millions of these, so that, although her agri- 
cultural skill has greatly increased since the days of Malthus,. 
she impoiis nearly half of her grain and one-third of her meat 

Malthus was of opinion that the National Debt of England 
was chiefly injurious because it absorbed the redundancy of 
commercial capital and kept up the rate of interest, thus pre- 
venting capital from overflowing upon the soil. He thought 
that thus a large mortgage had been established on the lands 
of England, the interest of which was drawn from the pay- 
ment of productive labor, and dedicated to the support of idle 
consumers. " It must be allowed, therefore, upon the whole, 
that our commerce heis not done so much for our agriculture, 
as our agriculture has done for our commerce ; and that the 
improved system of cultivation which has taken place, in spite 
of considerable discouragements, creates yearly a surplus produce 
which enables the country, with but little assistance, to sup- 
port so vast a body of people engaged in pursuits unconnected 
with the land." 

About the middle of the eighteenth century, England, saya 
our author, was genuinely, and in the strict sense of the econ- 
omists, an agricultural nation. With London containing a 
population of more than four millions, and our other immense 
cities, this description of England is now quite out of place. 

About the middle of the last century, says Malthus, we- 
were genuinely, and in the strict sense of the economists,. 
an agricultural nation. '' We have now, however, slipped out 
of the agricultural system into a state in which the commer- 
cial system clearly predominates, ; and there is but too much 
reason to fear that even our consumers and manufacturers will, 
ultimately feel the disadvantage of the change. When a. 
country in average years grows more wheat than it consumes, 
and is in the habit of exporting a part of it, those great varia- 
tions of price which from the competition of commercial 
wealth, often produce lasting effects, cannot occur to the same* 


extent. The wages of labour can never rise very much above 
the common price in other com tnercial countries ; and under 
such circumstances England would have nothing to fear from 
the fullest and most open competition." 

Our author thinks (chap. ix. book iii.) that if we were to 
lower the price of labour by encouraging the import of foreign 
corn, we should probably aggravate our evils. The decline in 
our agriculture would be certain. The British grower could 
not, in his own markets, stand the competition of foreign 
growers, in average years. Arable lands of a moderate quality 
would hardly pay the expenses of cultivation. Rich soils alone 
would yield a rent. Round our towns the appearance would 
be the same as usual ; but in the interior of the country much 
of the land would be neglected, and almost universally, where 
it was practicable, pasture would take the place of tillage. 
This state of things would continue till the equilibrium was 
restored, either by the fall of British rent and wages, or an 
advance in foreign corn, or, what is more probable, by the 
union of both causes. But a period would have elapsed of 
considerable relative encouragement to manufactures, and re- 
lative discouragement to agriculture. A certain portion of 
capital would be taken from the land, and when the equilib- 
rium was at length restored, the nation would probably be 
found dependent upon foreign supplies for a great portion of 
its subsistence : and unless some particular cause were to 
occasion a foreign demand greater than the home demand, its 
independence, in this respect, would not be recovered. In the 
natural course of things, a country which depends for a con- 
siderable part of its supply of corn upon its poorer neighbours 
may expect to see this supply gradually diminish, as those 
countries increase in riches and population, and have less sur- 
plus produce to spare. 

This last remark of Malthus has been verified of late years 
in Europe, for countries from which we used some few years 
back to receive a considerable amount of our supplies of meat 
and grain, have now become competitors with us for supplies 
of these articles from the United States and Australasia. And 
for other countries his further remark holds true, that the 
political relations of such a country may expose it, during a 
war, to have that part of its supply of provisions which it de- 
rives from foreign states suddenly stopped or greatly di- 
minished ; an event which could not take place without pro- 
ducing the most calamitous effects. "A nation," he continues, 
''in which agrioidtural wealth predominates, though it may 


not produce at home such a surplus of luxuries and con- 
veniences as the commercial nation, and may therefore be ex- 
posed possibly to some want of these commodities, has, on the 
other hand, a surplus of that article which is essential to the 
well-being of the whole state, and is therefore secure from 
want in what is of the greatest importance. And if we cannot 
be so sure of the supply of what we derive from others, as of 
what we produce at home, it seems to be an advantageous 
policy in a nation whose territory will allow of it, to secure a 
surplus of that commodity, a deficiency of which would strike 
most deeply at its happiness and prosperity." 

Malthus held that there is no branch of trade more pro- 
fitable to a country, even in a commercial point of view, 
than the sale of rude produce. And here he seems to have 
disagreed with Adam Smith's views. That illustrious writer 
on Wealth observes that a trading and manufacturing country 
exports what can subsist and accommodate but very few, and 
imports the subsistence and accommodation of a great number. 
The other exports the subsistence and accommodation of a 
great number, and imports that of a very few only. The in- 
habitants in the one must enjoy, said Adam Smith, a much 
greater quantity of subt^istence than what their own land, in 
the actual state of cultivation, could afford. The inhabitants 
of the other must always enjoy a much smaller quantity, 

Malthus demurs to much of this argument ef Adam Smith. 
For, says he, ^M hough the manufacturing nation may export a 
commodity which, in its actual shape, can only subsist and 
accommodate a very few, yet it must be recollected that in 
order to prepare this commodity for exportation, a considerable 
part of the revenue of the country has been employed in sub- 
sisting and accommodating a great number of workmen. And 
with regard to the subsistence and accommodation which the 
other nation exports, whether it be of a great or a small 
number, it is certainly no more than sufficient to replace the 
subsistence that has been consumed in the manufacturing 
nation, together with the profits of the master manufacturer 
and merchant, which probably, are not so great as the profits 
of the farmer and the merchant in the agricultural nation ; 
and, though it may be true that the inhabitants of the manu- 
facturing nation enjoy a greater quantity of subsistence than 
what their own lands in the actual state of their cultivation 
could afford, yet an inference in favour of the manufacturing 
system bj- no means follows, because the adoption of the one 
or the other system will make the greatest difference in their 


aotnal state of cnltivation. If, during the course of a oentnrfy 
"two landed nations were to pursue these two different systemi, 
that is, if one of them were regularly to export manufacture 
and import subsistence, and the other to export subsistence and 
import manufacture, there would be no comparison at the end 
of the period between the state of cultivation in the two 
countries; and no doubt could rationally be entertained that 
the country which exported its raw produce would be able to 
subsist and accommodate a muoh larger population than the 

It is a matter, says our author, of very little comparative 
importance, whether we are fully supplied with broadcloth, 
linens, and muslins, or even with tea, sugar, and coffee, and no 
rational politician therefore would think of proposing a bounty 
on such commodities. "But it is certainly a matter of the 
very highest importance, whether we are fully supplied with 
food ; and if a bounty would produce such a supply, the most 
liberal economist might be justified in proposing it, considering 
food as a commodity distinct from all others, and pre-eminentlj 




IN Chapter X. Mr. Malthus treats of bounties on the expor- 
tation of corn. He sets out by observing that according- 
to the general principles of political economy, it cannot be- 
doubted, that it is for the interest of the civilised world that 
each nation should purchase its commodities wherever they 
can be had the cheapest. 

" During the seventeenth century, and indeed the whole 
period of our history previous to it, the prices of wheat were 
subject to great fluctuations, and the average price was very 
high. For fifty years before the year 1700, the average price 
of wheat per quarter was £3 Os. lid., and before 1650 it was 
£6 8s. lOd. From the time of the completion of the corn 
laws in 1700 and 1706, the prices became extraordinarily 
steady, and the average price for forty years previous to the- 
year 1750, sunk as low as £1 16s. per quarter. This was the- 
period of our greatest exportations. In 1757 the laws were 
suspended, and in 1773 they were totally altered. The exports 
of corn have since been regularly decreasing, and the imports 
increasing. The average price of wheat for the forty years 
ending in 1800, was £2 9s. 5d., and for the last five years of 
this period £3 6s. 6d. During this last term the balance of 
the imports of all sorts of grain is estimated at 2,938,357." 

Mr. Malthus observes that it is totally contrary to the habits 
and practice of farmers to save the superfluity of six or seven 
years. Great practical inconvenience generally attends the 
keeping of so large a reserved store. Difficulties often occur 
from a want of proper accommodation for it. It is at all times 
liable to damage from vermin and other causes. When very 
large it is apt to be viewed with a jealous and grudging eye 
by the common people. And in general, the farmer may 
either not be able to remain so long without the returns, or 
may not be willing to employ so considerable a capital in a 
way in which the returns must necessarily be distant and 

Mr. Malthus was in favour of a bounty on the exportation of 
corn, because the effect of such a bounty was to lepress slightly 
the iuoreaae ^i population in years of plenty, whilst it en- 


oonraged it comparatively in years of scarcity. This effect, he 
maintained, was one of the greatest advantages which could 
possibly occur to a society, and contributed more to the 
happiness of the labouring poor than could easily be conceived 
by those who had not deeply considered the subject. " In 
the whole compass of human events," he says, "I doubt if there 
be a more fruitful source of misery, or one more invariably 
productive of disastrous consequences, than a sudden start of 
population from two or three years of plenty, which must 
necessarily be repressed on the first return of scarcity, or even 
of average crops." From 1637 to 1700, both inclusive, the 
average price of corn, according to Adam Smith, was £2 lis.; 
yet in 1681 the growing price was only £1 8s. This high 
average price, according to Malthus, would not proportionally 
encourage the cultivation of corn. Though the farmer might 
feel very sanguine during one or two years of high price, and 
project many improvements, yet the glut in the market which 
would follow, would depress him in the same degree, and de- 
stroy all his projects. Sometimes, indeed, a year of high 
prices really tends to impoverish the land, and prepare the 
way for future scarcity. 

In a foot-note in page 264, Chapter X., Mr. Malthus makes 
the remark that, '* On account of the tendency of population 
to increase in proportion to the means of subsistence, it had 
been supposed by some that there would always be a sufficient 
demand at home for any quantity of corn which could be 
grown. But this is an error. It is undoubtedly true that if 
the farmers could gradually increase their growth of corn to- 
any extent, and could sell it sufficiently cheap, a population 
would arrive at home to demand the whole of it. But in this^ 
case, the great increase of demand arises solely from the cheap- 
ness, and must therefore be totally of a different nature from 
such a demand as, in the actual circumstances of this country, 
would encourage an increased supply. If the makers of super- 
fine broadcloth would sell their commodity for a shilling a 
yard, instead of a guinea, it cannot be doubted that the de- 
mand would increase more than tenfold, but the certainty of 
such an increase of demand, in such a case, would have no 
tendency whatever, in the actual circumstances of any known 
country, to encourage the manufacture of broad cloths." 

In page 267 Mr. Malthus adverts to what has recently been 
commented upon by a great French statistician, Mr. Maurice 
Block, viz. : the danger of a country becoming too dependent 
on others for its supplies of food. " A rich and oommerciai 


nation is by the natural course of things led more to pasture 
than to tillage, and is tempted to become daily moie dependent 
upon others for its supplies of corn. If all the nations of 
Europe could be considered as one great country, and if any 
one state could be as sure of its supplies from others, as the 
pasture district of a particular state are from the corn dis- 
tricts in their neighbourhood, there would be no harm in this 
dependence, and no person would think of proposing corn 
laws. But can we safely consider Europe in this light? The 
fortunate condition of this country, and the excellence of its 
laws and government, exempt it. above any other nation, from 
foreign invasion and domestic tumult, and it is a pardonable 
love for one's country, which under such circumstances pro- 
duces an unwillingness to expose it, in so important a point as 
the supply of its principal food, to share in the dangers and 
•chances which may happen on the Continent. How would 
the miseries of France have been aggravated duriug the revo- 
lution if she had been dependent on foreign countries for the 
support of two or three millions of her people." 

It is instructive to read what was thought might be the 
magnitude of our future imports of wheat in 1806. In page 268 
Mr. Malthus writes : " We can hardly doubt that in the course 
•of some years we shall draw from America, and the nations 
l)ordering on the Baltic, as much as two millions of quarters 
•of wheat, besides other corn, the support of above two 
millions of people. If under these circumstances, any com- 
mercial discussion, or other dispute, were to arise with these 
nations, with what a weight of power they would have to 
negociate ! Not the whole British Navy could offer . a mortf 
convincing argument than the single threat of shutting ail 
their ports. I am not unaware that in general, we may 
^securely depend upon people not acting directly contrary to 
their interest. But this consideration, all powerful as it is, 
will sometimes yield voluntarily to national indignation, and 
it is sometimes forced to yield to the resentment of a sove- 
reign. It is of sufficient weight in practice when applied to 
manufactures ; because a delay in their sale is not of such im- 
mediate consequence. But in the case of corn, a delay of 
three or four months may produce the most complicated 
misery ; and from the great bulk of corn, it will generally be 
in the power of the sovereign to execute almost completely 
his resentful purpose." This is the argument of Mr. Block, 
with respect to our dependence on the United States for so 
much of our food supplies. He remarks that it might easily 

OF TH03f AS R. MALTHUS. 9^v 

happen that some party in the United States might take to- 
prohibiting the export of corn, and in such a case there can 
be no doubt that the people of this country would at once be- 
plunged into the severest trouble with respect to their food 
supplies. A war with the United States is of couise most 
unlikely, too, but alas ! even such a catastrophe is possible in. 
the present position of human affairs. 

The argument made use of by M. Maurice Block, that, in 
times of war, Great Britain may possibly in some future time 
be in danger of seeing much of its population starved from 
want of food supplies, was anticipated by Mai thus in a foot 
note in chapter x. He there says : — " I should be misunder- 
stood if, from anything I have said in the four last chapters, 
I should be considered as not sufficiently aware of the advan-. 
tages derived from commerce and manufactures. I look upon 
them as the most distinguishing characteristics of civilization, 
the most obvious and striking marks of the improvement of 
society, and calculated to enlarge our enjoyments, and add to 
the sum of human happiness. No great surplus of agriculture- 
could exist without them, and if it did exist, it would be com- 
paratively of very little value. But still they are rather the 
ornaments and embellishments of the political structure than 
its foundations. While these foundations are perfectly secure,. 
we cannot be too solicitous to make all the apartments con- 
venient and elegant : but if there be the slightest reason to 
fear that the foundations themselves may give way, it seems 
to be folly to continue directing our principal attention to tho 
less essential parts. There has never yet been an instance in 
history of a large nation continuing with undiminished vigour 
to support four or five millions of its people on imported corn ; 
nor do I believe that there ever will be such an instance in 
future. England is, undoubtedly, from her insular situation 
and commanding navy, the most likely to form an exception 
to this rule ; but in spite even of the peculiar advantages of 
England, it appears to me clear that if she continues yearly to- 
increase her importations of corn, she cannot ultimately 
escape that decline which seems to be the natural and 
necessary consequence of excessive commercial wealth.. 
I am not now speaking of the next twenty or thirty 
years, but of the next two or three hundred. And 
though we are little in the habit of looking so far forward, 
yet it may be questioned whether we are not bound in duty to> 
make some exertions to avoid a system which must necessarily 
terminate in the weakness and decline of our posterity. But 


-whether we make any practical application of such a discus- 
sion or not, it is curious to contemplate the cause of those 
reverses in the fate of empires, which so frequently changed 
the face of the world in past times, and may be expected to 
produce similar, though perhaps not such violent changes in 
future. War was undoubtedly, in ancient times, the principal 
cause of these changes ; but it frequently only finished a work 
which excess of luxury and agriculture had begun. Foreign 
invasions, or internal convulsions, produced but a temporary 
and comparatively slight eiSfect upon such countries as Lombard y, 
Tuscany, and Flanders, but are fatal to such states as Holland 
and Hamburg, and though the commerce and manufactures 
of England will probably always be supported in a great 
degree by her agriculture, yet that part which is not so sup- 
ported will still remain subject to the reverses of dependent 

Writing in 1806, Mr. Malthus adds : — " We should recollect 
that it is only within the last twent}' or thirty years that we 
have become an imjDorting nation. In so short a period it 
could hardly be expected that the evils of the system should 
be perceptible. We have, however, already felt some of its 
inconveniences ; and if we persevere at it, its evil conse- 
quences may by no means be a matter of remote speculation." 

En the eleventh chapter of his third book our author treats 
of the prevailing errors respecting population and plenty, 
and notices some of the arguments which have this very year 
(1883) been put forward, over and over a£*.n, by the disciples 
of Mr. Henry George, an American writer who has acquired 
a sudden celebrity for his work on "Progress and Poverty." 
** It has been observed," says Mr. Malthus, *' that many 
countries at the period of their greatest degree of populousness 
have lived in the greatest plenty, and have been able to 
export corn ; but at other periods, when their population was 
very low, have lived in continual poverty and want, and have 
been obliged to import corn. Egypt, Palestine, Rome, Sicily, 
and Spain are cited as particular examples of this fact : and 
it has been inferred that an increase of population in any 
state, not cultivated to the utmost, will tend rather to aug- 
ment than diminish the relative plenty of the whole 
society ; and that, as Lord Kaimes observes, a country cannot 
■easily become too populous for agriculture, because agriculture 
has the signal property of producing food in proportion to 

the number of consumers The prejudices on the 

fiubject of population bear a very striking resemblance to the 


old prejudices about specie, and we know how slowly and 
-with, what difficulty these last have yielded to juster concep- 
tions. Politicians, observing that states which were power- 
ful and prosperous were almost invariably populous, have 
mistaken an effect for a cause, and concluded that their popu- 
lation was the cause of their prosperity, instead of their 
prosperity being the cause of their population ; as the old 
3)olitical economists concluded, that the abundance of specie 
was the cause of national wealth, instead of the effect of it. 
The annual produce of the land and labour, in both of these 
instances, became in consequence a secondary consideration, 
and its increase, it was conceived, would naturally follow the 
increase of specie in the one case, or of population in the 
other. Yet surely the folly of endeavouring to increase the 
quantity of specie in any country without an increase of the 
commodities which it is to circulate, is not greater than that 
•of endeavouring to increase the number of people without an 
increase of the food which is to maintain them ; and it will 
be found that the level above which no human laws can raise 
the population of a country, is a limit more fixed and im- 
passable than the limit to the accumulation of specie." 

** Ignorance and despotism seem to have no tendency to de- 
€troy the passions which prompt to increase ; but they effect- 
ually destroy the checks to it from reason and foresight. The 
improvident barbarian who thinks only of his present wants, 
or the miserable peasant, who, from his political situation, 
feels little security of reaping what he has sown, will seldom 
be deterred from gratifying his passion by the prospect of 
inconvenience, which cannot be expected to press upon him 
under three or four years. Industry cannot exist without fore- 
sight and security. Even poverty itself, which appears to be 
the great spur to industry, when it has passed certain limits 
almost ceases to operate. The indigence which is hopeless 
destroys all vigorous exertion, and confines the efforts to what 
ie sufficient for bare existence. It is the hope of bettering our 
condition, and the fear of want rather than want itself, that is 
the best stimulus to industry ; and its most constant and best 
directed efforts will almost invariably be found among a class 
of people above the class of the wretchedly poor." 

This remark of Mai thus is a reply to those who say that if 
food were cheaper and the poor better fed, they would only 
work as much as was needed to get a scanty supply of food. 
Experience in our colonies and in the United States shows that 
the fear of want is an incentive to make the early colonists of a 


fertile country fervid in their desire to obtain wealth. 

** That an increase of population," says Malthus, *' when it- 
follows in its natural order, is both a great positive good iiL 
itself, and absolutely necessary to a further increase in the- 
annual produce of the land and labour of any country, I 
should be the last to deny. The onl}' question is, What is 
the natural order of this progress ? In this point. Sir James- 
Stewart appears to me to have fallen into an error. He de- 
termines that multiplication is the etiicient cause of agricul- 
ture, and not agriculture of multiplication ; but though it may 
be allowed that the increase of people beyond what could easily 
subsist on the natural fruits of the earth, first pi'ompted man 
to till the ground: and that the view of maintaining a family, 
or of obtaining some valuable consideration in exchange for- 
the products of agriculture, still operates as the principal 
stimulus to cultivation ; yet it is clear that these products, in 
their actual state, must be beyond the lowest wants of the 
existing population before any permanent increase can possibly 
be supported. We know that a multiplication of births has 
in numberless instances taken place, which has produced no- 
effect upon agriculture, and has merely been followed by an 
increase of diseases : but perhaps there is no instance where a. 
permanent increase of agriculture has not a permanent 
increase of population, somewhere or other. Consequently 
agriculture may with more propriety be termed the efficient 
cause of ])Opulation, than population of agriculture, though 
they certainly react upon each other, and are mutually 
necessary to each other's support." 

"The author of * L'Ami des Hommes ' (Mirabeau's father),, 
in a chapter on the effects of a decay in agriculture upon 
population, acknowledges that he had fallen into a fundamental 
error in considering population as the source of revenue : and 
that he was afterwards convinced that revenue was the source 
of population. From a want of attention to this most im- 
portant distinction, statesmen, in pursuit of the desirable- 
object of population^ have been led to encourage early 
marriages, to reward the fathers of families, and to disgrace- 
celibacy ; but this, as the same author justly observes, is to- 
dress and M'ater a piece of land without sowing it, yet to- 
expect a crop." It is curious that so back wai'd is speculation 
on this question even in modern France, the most practical 
Neo-Malthusian country in Europe, that this year has already 
seen two proposals made by learned FrenLihmen to encourage 
marriage and large families. The first emanated from the- 



eon of one of the most distinguished surgeons of Paris, Dr. 
Eichet ; the other from a member of the French Corps 

" Among the other prejudices," says Malthus, '' which hare 
prevailed on the subject of population, it has been generally 
thought that while there is either waste among the rich, or 
laud remaining uncultivated in any country, the complaints 
for want of food cannot be justly founded, or at least that the 
presence of distress among the poor is to be attributed to the 
ill-conduct of the higher classes of society and the bad man- 
agement of the land. The real effect, however, of these two 
circumstances is merely to narrow the limit of the actual 
population ; but they have little or no influence on what may 
be called the average pressure of distress on the poorer mem- 
bers of society. If our ancestors had been so frugal and in- 
dustrious, and had transmitted such habits to their posterity, 
that nothing superfluous was consumed by the higher classes, 
no horses were used for pleasure, and no land was left uncul- 
tivated, a striking difference would appear in the state of the 
actual population, but piobably none whatever in the state of 
the lower classes of people, with respect to the price of labour 
and the facility of supporting a family. The waste among the 
rich, and the horses kept for pleasure, have indeed a little the 
effect of the consumption of grain in distilleries, noticed before 
with regard to China. On the supposition that the food con- 
sumed in this manner may be withdrawn on the occasion of a 
scarcity, and be applied to the relief of the poor, they operate 
certainly as far as they go, like granaries which are only 
opened at the time that they are wanted, and must therefore 
tend rather to benefit than to injure the lower classes of so- 

" With regard to uncultivated land," says our author, " it is 
evident that its effect upon the poor is neither to injure nor to 
benefit them. The sudden cultivation of it would undoubtedly 
tend to improve their condition for a time, and the 
»^eglect of lands before cultivated will certainly make their 
situation worse for a certain period ; but when no changes of 
this kind are going forward the effect of uncultivated land on 
the lower class operates merely like the possession of a smaller 
territory. It is indeed a point of very great importance to 
the poor whether a country is in the habit of exporting or im- 
porting corn ; but this point is not necessarily connected with 
the complete or incomplete cultivation of the whole territory, 
but depends upon the proportion of the surplus produce to those 


who are supported by it ; and in fact this proportion is gener- 
ally the greatest in countries which have not yet completed 
the cultivation of their territory. 

*' We should not, therefore, be too ready to make inferences 
against the internal economy of a country from the appearance 
of uncultivated heaths, without other evidence. But the fact 
is, that no country has ever reached, or probably ever will 
reach, its highest possible acme of produce, it appears always 
as if the want of industr3^ or the ill-direction of that industry, 
was the actual limit to a further increase of produce and popu- 
lation, and not the absolute refusal of nature to yield anymore; 
but a man who is locked up in a room may be fairh^ said to be 
confined by the walls of it, though he may never touch them ; 
and with regard to the principle of population, it is never the 
question whether a country will produce any more, but whether 
it may be made to produce a sufficiency to keep pace with an 
unchecked increase of people. In China the question is not, 
whether a certain additional quantity of rice might be raised 
by improved culture, but whether such an addition could be 
counted on during the next twenty-five j'ears as would be suf- 
ficient to support an additional three hundred millions of 
people. And in this country it is not the question whether, 
by cultivating all our commons,, we could raise considerably 
more than at present : but whether we could raise sufficient 
for a population of twenty millions in the next twenty-five 
years and forty millions in the next fifty years. 

" The allowing of the produce of the earth to be absolutely 
unlimited scarcely removes the weight of a hair from the argu- 
ment, which depends entirely upon the differently increasing 
ratios of population and food ; and all that the most enlight- 
ened governments and the most persevering and best guided 
efforts of industry can do, is to make the necessary checks to 
population act more equably, and in a direction to produce 
the least evil ; but to remove them is a task absolutely hope- 

We have now arrived at the last part of Malthus's great essay 
on population. In Book IV. our author speaks in chapter i. 
of future prospects of the removal or mitigation of the evils 
arising from the principle of population. He shows that we 
must submit to the population law as an ultimate law of nature, 
and that all that remains for us is, how we may check popu- 
lation with the least prejudice to the virtue and happiness of 
human society. He claims for moral restraint that it is the 
least harmful of all the checks. " If we be intemperate ia 

OF TII03IAS U. MAT/niUS. 99 

eating and drinking (he says) we are disordered ; if we in- 
dulge the transi^orts of anger, we seldom fail to commit actg 
of which we afterwards repent ; if we multiply too fast, we 

die miserably of poverty and contagious diseases The kind 

of food, and the mode of preparing it, best suited for the pur- 
poses of nutriment and the gratification of the palate, 'sic, 
were not pointed out to the attention of man at once, but were 
the slow and late result of experience, and of the admonitions 
received by repeated failures." 

Mr. Malthus then, following Hippocrates, points out that 
in the history of every epidemic, it has almost invariably been 
observed, that the lower classes of people, whose food was 
poor and insufficient, and who lived crowded together in small 
and dirty houses, were the principal victims. " In what other 
manner can nature point out to us, that if we increase too 
for the means of subsistence, so as to render it necessary for a 
•considerable part of the society to live in this miserable man- 
ner, we have offended against one of her laws ?" After the 
desire of food, the most powerful and general of our desires is 
passion between the sexes, taken in an enlarged sense. Mr. 
Godwin had said, in one of his works : '' Strip the commerce 
of the sexes of all its attendant cii'cumstances, and it would be 
generally despised." To this Mr. Malthus replies, that God- 
win might as well say to a man who admired trees : " Strip 
them of their spreading branches and lovely foliage, and what 
beauty can you see in a bare pole?" ''The evening meal, the 
warm house, and the comfortable fire-side would lose half of 
their interest if we were to exclude the idea of some object of 
affection with whom they were to be shared." 

Few or none, then, of our human passions would admit of 
being greatly diminished, without narrowing the sources of 
good more pov/erfully than the sources of evil. The fecundity 
of the human species is, in some respects, a distinct considera- 
tion from the passion between the sexes. It is strong and 
general, and apparently would not admit of any very consider- 
able diminution without being inadequate for its object. "It 
is of the very utmost importance to the happiness of mankind 
that they should not increase too fast ; but it does not appear 
that the object to be accomplished would admit of any very 
considerable diminution in the desire for marriage. It is 
clearly the duty of each individual not to marry until he has 
a prospect of supporting his children : but it is at the same 
time to be wished that he should retain undiminished his de- 
sire for marriacre, in order that he may exert himself to realise 


this prospect, and be stimulated to make provision for the sup- 
port of greater numbers. 

" Our obligation not to marry till we have a fair prospect 
b ing able to support our children will appear to deserve the- 
attention of the moralist, if it can be proved that an attention 
to these obligations is of more effect in the prevention of mis- 
ery than all the other virtues combined ; and that if, in viola- 
tion of this dut}^, it was the general custom to follow the first 
impulse of nature, and marry at the age of pubert}^ the uni- 
versal prevalence of every known virtue in the greatest con- 
ceivable degree wonld fail of rescuing society from the most 
wretched and deplorable state of want, and all the diseases- 
and famines which usually accompany it." 

In chapter ii.Mr. Malthus speaks of the effects which would 
result to societ}^ from the prevalence of this virtue of moral 
restraint. " No man whose earnings were only sufficient to 
maintain two children, would put himself in a situation in 
which he might have to maintain four or five, however he 
might be prompted to it by the passion of love. The interval 
between the age of puberty and the period at which each in- 
dividual might venture to marry must, according to this view 
be passed in strict chastity ; because the law of chastity can- 
not be violated without producing evil. The effect of any- 
thing like a promiscuous intercourse which prevents the birth 
of children, is evidently to weaken the best affections of the- 
heart, and in a very marked manner to degrade the female 
character. And any other intercourse would, without imj^roper 
arts, bring as many children into society as marriage, with a. 
much greater probability of their becoming a burden to it." 

The phrase, '* improper arts," is the only point on which 
the so-styled Neo-Malthusians differ from Malthus. To his 
modern disciples it seems abundantly proved, from the experi- 
ence of France and elsewhere, that late marriage is not what 
must be trusted to to check population ; but a restraint in the 
size of families. Mr. Malthus, indeed, seems himself to recog- 
nise the evils of late marriages, for he writes : " The late mar- 
riages at present are, indeed, principall}^ confined to the men ; 
and there are few, however advanced in life they may be, who,, 
if they determine to marry, do not fix their choice on a very 
young wift. A young woman, without fortune, when she^ 
has passed her twenty-fifth year, begins to fear, and with rea- 
son, that she may lead a life of celibacy If women could 

look forward with just confidence to marriage at twentj^-eight. 
or thirty, I fully believe that, if the matter were left to them.. 


:for choice, they would clearly prefer waiting till this period, 
to the being involved in all the cares of a large family at 

Lord Derby, some years ago, truly observed that great em- 
perors did not like their subjects to be too well off. This 
remark may have been a citation from Malthus, where he says: 
"''The ambition of princes would want instruments of destruc- 
tion, if the distresses of the lowei- classes of their subjects did 
not drive them under their standards. A. recruitino; sero-eaut 
always prays for a bad harvest and want of employment, or 
iu other words, a redundant population." Mr. Malthus points 
out that a society with a low birth rate will be extremely 
powerful both in war and peace. One of the principal en- 
couragements to an offensive war would be removed, and 
there would be greater freedom from poh'tical dissensions at 
home. " Indisposed to a war of offence, in a war of defence 
such a society would be strong as a rock of adamant. Where 
every family po.rsessed the necessaries of life or plenty, and a 
decent portion of its comforts and couveniences, there could 
not exist that hope of change, or at best that melancholy and 
disheartening indifference to it, which sometimes prompts the 
lower classes of people to say— Let what will come, we can- 
not be worse off than we are now." 

In chapter iii. Mr. Malthus speaks rather gloomily as ti 
the prospect of Society adopting his recommendation of late 
•marriages, " I believe (he says) that few of my readers can be 
less sanguine of expectations of any great change in the 
genei-al conduct of men on this subject than I am." He 
proposes it, it seems, in order chiefly to vindicate the character 
of the Deity ! This is at present known by all scientific 
inquirers to be a fallacious argument; and we cannot but 
contrast with our great author's vacillating doctrine, the clear 
"in of duty laid down by the greatest of his followers, Mr. 
J. S. Mill, when he says that the happiness of society is quite 
attainable, if only it becomes a rule of morals that the pro- 
duciug of large families in Europe should be looked upon as 
^ vice. 

" Almost everything that has hitherto been done for the poor 
has tended, as if with solicitous care, to throw a veil of 
■obscurity over this subject, and to hide from them the true 
cause of their poverty. A man has always been told that to 
raise up subjects for his king and country is a meritorious act. 
In an etideavonr to raise the proportion of the quantity of 
provisions to the number of consumers in any country, our 


attention would naturally be first directed to the increasing of 
the absolute quantity of provisions, but finding that, a& 
fast as we did this, the numbers of consumers more than kept 
pace with it, and that with all our exertions we were still as- 
far as ever behind, we should be convinced that our efforts 
directed in this way would never succeed. It would appear 
to be setting the tortoise to catch the hare. Finding there- 
fore, that from the laws of nature we could not proportion 
the food to the population, our next attempt should naturally 
be to proportion the population to the food. If we can per- 
suade the hare to go to sleep, the tortoise may have some- 
some chance of overtaking her." 

In chapter iv., our author replies to some objections. Some- 
of his critics had said that if his advice were followed, the 
market would be rather understocked with labour. To this 
Maltbus observes that " a market overstocked with labour,, 
and an ample remuneration to each labourer, are objects per- 
fectly incompatible with each other. In the annals of the- 
world they have never existed together ; and to couple them 
even in imagination betrays a gross ignorance of the simplest 
principles of political economy." Mr. Malthus then replies- 
to the oft repeated futuritj^ argument as follows : " I can 
easily conceive that this country, with a proper direction of 
the national industry-, might, in the course of some centuries^ 
contain two or three times its present population, and yet 
every man in the kingdom be better paid and clothed than he- 
is at present." 

'• While the springs of industry continue in vigor, and a 
sufficient part of that industry is directed to agriculture, we 
need be under no apprehension of a deficient population ; and 
nothing perhaps would tend so strongly to create a spirit of 
industry and economy among the poor, as a thorough know- 
ledge that their happiness must always depend principally 
npon themselves ; and that if they obey their passions in 
opposition to their reason, or be not industrious and frugal 
while they are single men, and save a sum for the common 
contingencies of the married state, they must expect to suffer 
the natural evils which Providence has prepared for those 
who disobey its admonitions." 

This, then, is the main argument of our author ; but, as we 
have seen, he fears lest he will not be listened to by the 
masses, and also sees clearly enough that his advice to delay 
the marriage day until funds have been reserved to meet all 
demands on the married pair, is not unlikely to lead to otlier 


evils. *' A third objection which may be started (he says) to 
this plan, and the only one which appears to rae to bear any 
kind of plausibility is, that by endeavoring to urge the duty 
of moral restraint on the poor, we may increase the quantity 
of sexual vice." 

Malthus finds considerable difficulty in meeting this attack, 
and few will be found who will be satisfied with the follow- 
ing reply to this objection. " I should be extremely sorry to 
say anything which could be either remotely or directly con- 
strued unfavorably to the cause of virtue ; but I certainly 
cannot think that the vices which relate to the sex are the 
only vices which are to be considered in a moral question ; or 
that they are even the greatest and most degrading to the 
human character. They can rarely or never be committed 
without producing such offences somewhere or other, and 
therefore ought always to be strongly repudiated ; but there 
are other vices, the effects of which are still more pernicious ; 
and there are other situations which lead more certainly to 
moral offences than the refraining from marriage." 

All of this is beside the question ; and our author fell into 
this kind of argument precisely because he had no experience 
as we moderns have of marriage with small families. This 
alone of all the alternatives gives the human race a chance of 
comfort, love, and family joys. Were it the custom for all in 
a country like England to consider it immoral to have a 
family exceeding four children, there might doubtless be hope 
that all might lead a virtuous life ; but Mr. Malthus' plan of 
late marriage necessarily condemns many women to celibacy, 
and, as he admits, tends to the degradation of numbers of 
other women. 

Our author continues : '^ Powerful as may be the tempta- 
tions to a breach of chastity, I am inclined to think that they 
are impotent, in comparison with the temptations arising 
from continued distress. A large class of women and many 
men, I have no doubt, pass a considerable part of their lives 
in chastity ; but I believe there will be found very few who 
pass through the ordeal of squalid and hopeless poverty, or 
even of long-continued embarrassed circumstances without a 

considerable degradation of character Add to this that 

squalid poverty, particularly when joined with idleness, is a 
state the most unfavorable to character that can well be con- 
ceived. The passion is as strong, or nearly so, as in other 
situations, and every restraint on it from personal respect 
or a sense of morality is generally removed. There is a degree 


of pqnalid poverty in which, if a girl was brought up, I 
should say that her being really modest at twenty was an 
absolute miracle. Those persons must have extraordinary 
minds indeed, and such as are not usually found under 
similar circumstances, who can continue to respect themselves 
when no other person whatever respects them. If the 
children thus brought up were even to marry at twenty, it is 
prol)able that they would have passed some years in vicious 
habits before that period." 

Had Mr. Malthus been alive at this moment, and travelled 
as he did in his lifetime through the rural districts of France, 
he would have been the first to admit that the French have 
given the only solution of the problem he states so clearly, 
that has ever been given by any nation. 

" If (says our author) statesmen will not encourage late 
marriages, but rather the opposite, then to act consistently 
they should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly en- 
deavoring to impede, the operations of nature in causing a 
great infantile mortality. Instead of recommending cleanli- 
ness to the poor, they should cultivate contrar}^ habits. If 
by these and similar means, the annual mortality were in- 
creased from 1 in 36 or 40, to 1 in 18 or 20, we might 
probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty, and 
yet few be absolutely starved. If, however, we all marry at 
this age, and yet still continue our exertions to impede the 
operations of nature, we may rest assured that all our efforts 
will be vain. Nature will not, and cannot be defeated in her 
j)urposes. The necessary mortality must come, in some form 
or other: and the extirpation of one disease will only be the 
signal for the birth of another perhaps more fatal. We can- 
not lower the waters of rivers by pressing them down in 
different places, which must necessarily make them rise some- 
where else ; the only way in which we can hope to effect our 
purpose is by drawing them off." 

" In a country which keeps up its population at a certain 
standard, if the average number of marriages and births be 
given, it is evident that the average number of deaths will 
also be given : and to use Dr. Heberden's metaphor, the 
channels through which the stream of mortality is constantly 
flowing will always convey off a given quantit}-. Now, if we 
stop up any of these channels, it must be perfectly clear that 
the stream of mortality must run with greater force through 
some of the other channels : that is, if we eradicate some dis- 
eases, others will become proportionally more fatal." 


" Dr. Tleberrlen, (says Malthns) draws a striking picture 
•of the favorable change observed in the health of the people 
of England, and greatly attributes it to the improvements 
which have gradually taken place, not only in London but in 
all great tou^ns ; and in the manner of living throughout the 
kingdom, particularly in respect to cleanliness and ventila- 
'tion. But these causes would not have produced the effect 
observed, if they had not been accompanied by an increase of 
the preventive check ; and probably the spread of cleanliness, 
and better mode of living, which then began to prevail, by 
spreading more generally a decent and useful pride, principally 
-contributed to this increase. The diminution in the number 
of marriages, however, was not sufficient to make up for the 
great decrease of mortality, from the extinction of the plague, 
and the striking reduction of the deaths from the dysentery. 
While these, and some other diseases became evanescent, con- 
sumption, palsy, apoplexy, gout, lunacy and the small-pox 
became more mortal. The widening of these drains was 
necessary to carry off the population which still remained 
redundant, notwithstanding the increased operation of the 
preventive check, and the part which was annualh' disposed 
•of, and enabled to subsist by the increase of agriculture." 

Mr. Malthus then adds : '' For ray own part, I feel not the 
■slightest doubt, that if the introduction of the cow-pox should 
extirpate the small-pox, and yet the number of marriages con- 
tinue the same, we shall find a very perceptible difference in 
the increased mortality of some other diseases. Nothing could 
prevent this effect but a sudden start in our agriculture : and 
:should this take place, which I fear we have not much reason 
to expect, it will not be owing to the number of children 
saved from death by the cow-pox inoculations, but to the 
alarms occasioned among the people of property' by the late 
^scarcities, and to the increased gains of farmers, which have 
been so absurdly reprobated. T am strongly, however, inclined 
to believe, that the nuniber of marriages will not in this case 
remain the same ; but that the gradual light which may be 
expected to be thrown on this interesting topic of human in- 
quiry, will teach us how to make the extinction of a mortal 
disorder, a real blessing to us, and a real improvement in 
the general health and happiness of the society." 

In these admirable remarks Malthus points out that when- 
■ever we make improvements in the science of health, we must 
be contented to lessen the birth-rate, if we would really secure 
the benefits we might expect. Thus, if drainage, good water 


Bupply, and the extirpation of fevers are to be of service to 
us, it must be that we are determined to have fewer children. 
For, if we have an equally high birth-rate, and no great 
addition to our food supplies from abroad or from our own 
soil, we must die inevitably of some other chronic, although 
different, maladies than those produced by bad drainage and 
fevers, or small- pox. In no case can we have a birth-rate of 
40 per 1,000 in an old country, without a high death-rate. 


IN Chapter VI. of Book IV. Mr. Malthus treats of the- 
effects of the knowledge of the principal cause of poverty 
on Civil Liberty, observing at the outset that it may appear 
to some that a doctrine which attributes the greatest part of 
the sufferings of the lower classes of society exclusively to 
themselves, is unfavorable to the cause of liberty, affording^ 
it may be said, a tempting opportunity to governments of 
oppressing their subjects at pleasure, and laying all the blame- 
on the improvident habits of the poor. Our author contends 
that, on the other hand, the pressure of distress on the lower 
classes of ueople, with the habit of attributing the distress 
to their rulers, appears to him to be the rock of defence, the- 
castle and the guardian spirit of despotism, affording as it 
does to the tyrant the unanswerable plea of necessity. 

" The patriot who might be called upon hj the love of his- 
country to join with heart and hand in a rising of the people 
for some specific attainable object or reform, if he knew that 
they were enlightened respecting their own situation, and: 
would stop short when the\' had attained their demand, would 
be called upon by the same motion to submit to very great 
opposition rather than give the slightest countenance to a 
popular tumult, the members of which, at least the greatest 
number of them, were persuaded that the destruction of the 
Parliament, the Lord Mayor, and the monopoly would make 
bread cheap, and that a revolution would enable them all tO' 
support their families. In this case it is more the ignorance 
and delusion of the lower classes of people that occasions the 
023pression, than the actual disposition of the government to- 

Mr. Malthus observes that the circulation of Paine's Rights 
of Man was said to have done great mischief among the lower 


and middle classes in this country : and that might be true ; 
but that was because Mr. Paine in many important points had 
shown himself totally unacquainted with the structure of 
society, and the different moral effects to be expected from the- 
physical difference between this country and America. Mobs- 
of the same description as those collections of people known, 
by that name in Europe could not at that day exist in America. 
The number of people without property was, then, at that 
time, from the physical state of the country, comparatively 
small : and therefore the civil power which was needed to 
protect property, did not require to be so large. Mr. Paine 
argued that the real cause of riots was always want of happi- 
ness, and maintained that such was always due to something 
being wrong in the system of Government. But this is 
evidently not always the case. The redundant population of 
an old state furnishes materials for unhappiness, unknown to 
such a state of that of America. 

Nothing would so effectually counteract the mischief caused 
by Mr. Paine's Rights of Man (says our author), as a general 
knowledge of our true rights. " What these rights are, it is 
not now my business to explain : but there is one right which 
man has generally been thought to possess, which I am con- 
fident he neither does nor can possess, a right to subsistence 
when his labor will not fairly purchase it. Our laws (in 1806)' 
indeed say that he has this right, and bind the society to- 
furnish employment and food to them who cannot get them 
in the regular market ; but in so doing they attempt to reverse 
the laws of nature ; and it is in consequence to be expected, 
not only that they should fail in their object, but that the 
poor who were intended to be benefited should suffer most 
cruelly from this inhuman deceit which is practised upon, 

Malthus adds that the Abbe Eaynal had said that before 
all other social laws, man has a right to subsistence. " He 
might just as well have said that every man had a right to live 
100 years. Yes ! He has a right to do so, if he can. Good 
social laws enable truly a greater number of people to exist 
than could without them ; but neither before nor since the- 
institution of social laws can an unlimited number exist. 
Consequently, as it is impossible to feed all that might be born^ 
it is disgraceful to promise to do so. 

'* If the great truths on these subjects were more generally^ 
circulated, and the lower classes could be convinced that by^ 
the laws of nature, independently of any particular institution^ 


except the great one of property, which is absolutely 
necessary in order to attain any considerable produce, no 
person has any claim or riohi on society for subsistence, if his 
labor will not purchase it, the greatest part of the mischievous 
■declamation on the unjust institutions of society would fall 
powerless to the ground. If the real causes of their misery 
were shown to the poor, and they were taught to know how 
small a part of their present distress was attributable to 
government, discontent would be far less common. 

" Again — Remove all fear from the tyranny or folly of the 
people, and the tyranny of government could not stand a 
moment. It would then appear in its proper deformity, 
without palliation, without pretext, without protection. 

'* Grood governments are chiefly useful to the poorer classes, 
by giving them a clearer view of the necessity of some 
preventive check to population. And in despotic govern- 
ments it is usually found that the checks to population arise 
more from the sickness and mortality consequent on poverty, 
ihan from any such preventive check." 

Mr. Malthus contends that *'the most successful support- 
ers of tyranny are without doubt those general declaimers 
who attribute the distresses of the poor, and almost all 
the evils to which societj' is subject, to human institutions 
and the iniquity of governments. The falsity of these accusa- 
tions, and the dreadful consequences that would result from 
their being generally admitted and acted upon, make it 
absolutely necessary that they should at all events be resisted : 
not only on account of the immediate revolutionary horrors 
to be expected from a movement of the people acting under 
such impressions, a consideration which must at all times 
have very great weight, but on account of the extreme pro- 
bability that such a revolution would soon terminate in a much 
worse despotism than that which it had destroyed. What- 
ever may be, therefore, the intention of those indiscriminate 
accusations against governments, their real effect undoubtedly 
is to add a weight of talents and principles to the prevailing 
power which it would never have received otherwise." 

** Under a government constructed upon the best and purest 
principles, and executed by men of the highest talents and 
integrity, the most squalid poverty and wretchedness might 
universally prevail from an inattention to the prudential check 
to population, and as this cause of unhappiness has hitherto 
been so little understood, that the efforts of society have 
always tended rather to aggravate than to lessen it, we have 


the strongest reason for supposing that in all the governments 
with which we are acquainted, a great part of the misery to 
be observed among the lower classes of the people arises from 
this cause." 

The inference, therefore, which Mr. Godwin, and in latter 
days Mr. Hyndman and the Democratic Federation, have 
drawn against governments from the unhappiness of the 
people is palpably unfair, and before we give a sanction to 
such accusations, it is a debt we owe to truth and justice, to 
ascertain how much of this unhappiness arises from the prin- 
ciple of population, and how much is fairly to be attributed 
to government. When this distinction has been properly 
made, and all the vague, indefinite, and false accusations 
removed, government would remain, as it ought to be, clearl}^ 
responsible for the rest, and the amount of this would still be 
such as to make the responsibility very considerable. *' Though 
government has but little power in the direct relief of poverty,, 
yet its indirect influences on the prosperity of its subjects is 
striking and incontestible. And the reason is, that though it 
is comparatively impotent in its efforts to make the food of a 
country keep pace with an unrestricted increase of population, 
yet its inflnence is great in giving the best direction to those 
checks, which in some form or other must necessarily take- 

The first great requisite, says Mr. Malthus, to the growth 
of prudential habits is the perfect security of property, and 
the next perhaps is that respectability and importance which 
is given to the lower classes by equal laws, and the possession 
of some influence in the framing of them. The more excel- 
lent, then, is the government, the more does it tend to generate 
that prudence and elevation of sentiment by which alone in 
the present state of our being can poverty be avoided. 

Mr, Malthus was greatly opposed to despotic government ; 
and he remarks that it has been sometimes asserted, that the 
only reason why it is advantageous that the people should 
have some share in the government, is that a representation 
of the people tends best to secure the framing of good and 
equal laws ; but that if the same object could be obtained under 
a despotism, the same advantage would accrue to the com- 
munity. If, however, the representative system, by securing 
to the lower classes of society a more equal and liberal mode 
of treatment from their superiors, gives to each individual a 
greater ])ersonal respectabilit}'' and a greater fear of personal 
degradation, it is evident that it will powerfully co-operat© 


with the security of property in aniruating the exertions of 
industry, and in generating habits of jDrudence, and thus more 
powerfully tend to increase the riches and prosperity of the 
lower classes of the community, tbau if the same laws had 
•existed under a despotism. 

But, says our author, though the tendenc}^ of a free consti- 
tution and a good government to diminish poverty is certain, 
yet its effect in this way must necessarily be indirect and 
slow, and very different from the immediate and direct relief 
which the lower classes of people are too frequently in the 
habit of looking forward to as the consequences of a revolu- 
tion. This habit of expecting too much, and the irritation 
occasioned by disappointment, continually give a wrong direc- 
tion to their efforts in favor of liberty, and continually tend 
to defeat the accomplishment of those gradual reforms in 
.government, and that slow amelioration of the lowest classes 
of society, which are really attainable. 

The following passage might be well studied in these dayg 
■of proposed schemes for land confiscation and communism. 
" It is of the very highest importance, therefore, to know dis- 
tinctly what government cannot do, as well as what it can do. 
If I were called upon to name the cause which, in my con- 
ception, had more than any other contributed to the very slow 
progress of freedom, so disheartening to everj' liberal mind, 
I should say that it was the confusion that had existed respect- 
ing the causes of the unhappiness and discontent which pre- 
vail in society : and the advantage which governments had 
been able to take, and indeed had been compelled to take, of 
this confusion, to confirm and strengthen their power. I 
cannot help thinking, therefore, that a knowledge generally 
■circulated, that the principal cause of want and unhappiness is 
only indirectly connected with government, and totally beyond 
its power to remove ; and that it depends upon the conduct 
of the poor themselves, would, instead of giving any advan- 
tage to government, give a great additional weight to the 
popular side of the question, by removing the danger with 
which from ignorance it is at present accompanied ; and these 
tend in a very jDOwerful manner to promote the cause of 
rational freedom." 

Mr. J. S. Mill, who was more of a Socialist than Mr. 
Malthus and a greater optimist, admits that it would be 
possible for the State to ensure employment at ample wages 
to all that are born. But, he adds, if it does this, it is bound 
in self-protection, and for every purpose for which the State 


exists, to see that no one should be born without its consent. 
That is, ne seems to favor the framing of a statute directed 
against the production of large families. 

In suggesting that it would be possible for the State to en- 
sure employment at ample wages to all that are born, if it only- 
takes care that too many shall not be born, Mr. Mill differs 
a good deal from Mr. Malthus and from many of the laissez 
/aire economists of the school of Adam kSmith. Persons who 
are great admirers of individual liberty confound, as is very 
often the case, the idea of freedom with that of the right to do 
wrong. It is quite clear that if in an old country , such as any 
of the European States, all classes of society were to engender 
as many children as is now done by the poorest and most 
thoughtless members, poverty would become as universal as it 
formerly was, when mankind were less civilised and had a 
very low standard of comfort. Mr. Mill and those who follow 
him in this contention, among whom is to be reckoned the 
author of the " Elements of Social Science," affirm that, although 
it is quite true that a grown up man or woman should be 
perfectly free to live his or her own life so far a"? relates to 
€elf-regarding actions, it is a confusion of ideas to style the 
bringing into life of another human being, an act purely self- 
regarding. When a country is over-peopled, or threatened 
with that greatest of all calamities, the production, it is held 
by these able writers, of more than a very small number of 
children by any couple is a gross offence against all who gain 
their living by toil, since the over-crowding of a country with 
human beings makes it very difficult for those at the bottom 
of society to get enough even of the coarsest food for them- 
selves and their families, whilst life is rendered harder for all 
who have to gain it by services of any kind. The number of 
children to a family among the richer classes in France appears 
now to be on an average not quite two to a family : whereas 
the poorer classes in Paris and some of the less thoughtful 
districts of France have families of more than six on an 
average. London now exhibits the notable fact that, whereas 
in the comfortable parishes of Kensington, St. George Hanover. 
Square, St. James Westminster, and Hampstead, the birth-rate 
in 1886 was not much above 21 per 1000 inhabitants annually ; 
in the poor parishes of Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, St. George 
in the East, and Whitechapel the birth-rate was 38-6 per 1000 
in that year, i.e., nearly twice as many children are born of 
1000 persons in the poor quarters as in the rich. As a con- 
sequence of this, the death-rate in the East End is to that in 


the West End as 3 to 2. Mr. Mill, and in this I entirely concur 
with him, thinks that the State can and ought to discourage 
the production of large families by some social stigma, and the 
author of the '' Elements of Social Science " thinks that some 
fine might be the penalty for the production of more than 
four children by any married pair. This he looks upon as a 
far juster way of checking rapid birth-rates than the Continental 
plan of preventing the poorest persons from marrying, since- 
it is not marriage, he observes, but the production of large 
families, that the State ought to endeavor to guard against. 
The mere discussion in the House of Commons of such a pro- 
position would do an immense deal of good in this and in all 
European States, since the poorer classes are generally anxious 
enough to do their duty, if they oii]y knew what that duty 
was. Of course any penalty for the production of a large 
family should fall equally on the rich and the poor, since the 
miseries inflicted by the well-to-do parent, who produces a. 
large family, on his helpless and innocent offspring, in the 
shape of life long celibacy, may fairly be compared with the 
want of food which such conduct causes among the poor. 
And any penalty ought to be very small, because, if not ^so,. 
persons might be led to practise criminal abortion or infanti- 
cide, practices most inimical to the welfare and even the ex- 
istence of society. 

The existence of the Malthusian theory of population was 
greatly obscured during the greater part of this century by 
the writings of the Free Traders, many of whom, in common 
with the illustrious leaders of the movement, Messrs. Cobden 
and Bright, thought that by means of the free importation of 
food, poverty might be entirely put an end to. It was said by 
some of the most enthusiastic speakers against the Corn Laws,. 
that if they were but abolished, the workhouses would soon- 
disappear ; and the United Kingdom would be filled with a 
numerous and contented population. This shows how little- 
these eminent men had considered the immense power of 
multiplication of the human race. As Mr. Malthus said, the- 
power of increasing production is, to the power of reproduction, 
as the speed of a tortoise is to that of a hare. The tortoise 
can only overtake the hare if the swifter animal fall asleep. 
Hence, free trade, however admirable in itself, has but little 
influence on the life of the poorest inhabitants of an over- 
crowded country. The share they get of the productions of 
the world will always be most meagre, so long as they increase 
so rapidly in number by producing families of ten or fifteen: 


children, and thus courting the positive check of the lower 

Soon after Mr. Malthus wrote his essay, it began to be noticed 
that in France families were much smaller, among the respect- 
able classes, than they were iu England ; and Mr. Francis 
Place wrote a pamplilet in which he pointed this out and re- 
commended the plan in place of the preventive check of late 
marriages. His pamphlet and remarks had much influence on 
the celebrated Robert Owen, and it is said that the latter 
philanthropist made known Place's views to his workmen at 
New Lanark, in Scotland, and it was on that account that that 
famous socialistic experiment succeeded so well. Mr. Robert 
Dale Owen, son of Robert Owen, emigrated to the United 
States and was ambassador to Europe from that country for 
some years. His pamphlet entitled " Moral Physiology " was 
a most eloquent plea for parental prudence, or early marriages 
and small families. That pamphlet was written subsequently 
to one written by Mr. Richard Oarlile, entitled " Every 
Woman's Book," and also to Dr. Charles Knowlton of Boston's 
work, written in 1833, entitled the " Fruits of Philosophy." 

This last work, in company with those of Owen, Carlile, 
and Austin Holyoake, which last was called *' Large and Small 
Families," were sold openly for some forty years in London 
and elsewhere, chiefly by the Secular party. In the year 1876, 
the " Fruits of Philosophy " was attacked as an obscene pub- 
lication under a new Act of Parliauient, called " Lord Camp- 
bell's Act," and a Bristol bookseller named Cook was sentenced 
to two years' imprisonment for selling it. Mr. Charles Watts, 
the London publisher of the work, was also prosecuted ; but, 
on his submission, he was allowed to get free with the pay- 
ment of costs. This did not suit the views of the more 
chivalrous of the Secularist party, and accordingly Mr. Charles 
Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant, the leaders of that party in 
England, issued the work again with a preface, and invited 
the authorities to prosecute them. The "Fruit? of Philosophy " 
was sold openly at 28, Stonecutter Street, London, and as the 
City authorities prosecuted, the case was sent up for trial to 
the Queen's Bench, where it was tried before the Lord Chief 
Justice Cockburn in June, 1877. The details of this most 
interesting of all trials are to be found in a work published 
by Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, which should be perused by all 
who wish to understand how our liberties are gradually ac- 
quired. Mr. Bradlaugh, in his admirable speech, maintained 
that the advocacy of all checks to population is lawful, except 


such as advise the destruction of the foetus in utero, or the 
child after birth. The Lord Chief Justice admitted the truth 
of the principle of population, and summed up most favorably 
to the defendants ; but the jury being quite new to the ques- 
tion, gave the following verdict : " We are unanimously of 
opinion that the book in question is calculated to deprave 
public morals ; but at the same time we entirely exonerate 
the defendants from any corrupt motives in publishing it." 
It turned out that the indictment was faulty ; and, on appeal 
to a higher court, the defendants were set free from the fine 
and imprisonment imposed on them by Chief Justice Cockburn, 
which he sentenced them to becau>e they went on selling the 
pamphlet. In the year 1877 the Malthusian League, a society 
for the propagation of Malthusian literature, was inaugurated. 
In February, 1878, Mr. Edward T/ uelove, bookseller, of Hol- 
born, London, was prosecuted by the authorities of the City of 
London, for the publication of the Hon. R. D. Owen's pam- 
phlet "Moral Physiology." and another pamphlet entitled 
*' Individual. Family, and Natioual Poverty." His case was 
admirably defended by Mr. William Hunter, and Mr. Truelove 
was set free ; but a second trial took place shortly after this 
at the Old Bailey, and the jury then gave a verdict of guilty, 
on which the judge sentenced the defendant to a fine of £200 
and a period of four months' imprisonment. Fortunately, Mr. 
Truelove's health was excellent, and he supported his period 
of imprisonment without injury, emerging from his prison a 
hero to all those who understand the immense value of the 
cause for which he suffered. No further trials have taken 
place of such works in London, although Mrs. Annie Besant's 
new pamphlet, the " Law of Population," and others have had 
a quite enormous sale of recent years. In the North of Eng- 
land and in Scotland, there is still a remnant of the old 
persecuting spirit, for a travelling hawker named Mr. William- 
son has been imprisoned at Goole and in Lincolnshire for 
selling Mrs. Besant's pamphlet in 1887. In the same year 
Dr. Henry Aithur Allbutt of Leeds, published a medical work 
called "The Wife's Handbook," which gave details of how 
the size of a family might be controlled by married people ; 
and the Eoyal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1887 
summoned him in March to come up in three months time, 
to show cause why he should not be deprived of his diploma 
for this act of common humanity. A host of protests and 
petitions were at once despatched to the Fellows of the College, 
bhowing them the gross wickedness of this action of theirs ; 

0^ I'lIOMAS R. MaLTHUS. 116 

nnd the consequence of this wns that up to July, 1887, Dr. 
H. Arthur Allbntt. had heard nothing more of this atrocious 
[)er.-ecntion by the governing body of a noble profession 
against one of its members for telling the poor how to get rid 
'if poverty. Hopes are entertained that not only may that 
body of [)hy8icians withdraw its opposition to Dr. H. A. All- 
butt's work ; but that they may even see fit to act the generous 
part, and, whilst confessing their error, ask for forgiveness 
from outraged humanity. 

.»,. ? ... - : ^ 


At the Annual Meeting of the Malthusian League in May, 
1887, held in London at the South Place Institute, Finsbury, 
Dr. Charles E. Drysdale, President of the Malthusian 
League, read the Presidential Address, which contained the 
following passages : — 

To that objection to the Neo-Malthusian propaganda which is 
usually successful with timid people, that incontinence would 
be increased if the means recommended by New-Malthusians 
\^-^re adopted, Mr. Place says : "I am of opinion it would 
not ; so much depends on manners, that it seems to be by no 
n-.-r-diib an unreasonable expectation that, if these were so im- 
proved as greatly to increase the prudential habits, and to en- 
con.-age the love of distinction, the master-spring of public 
prosperity, and if, in consequence of the course recommended, 
all could marry early, there would be less debauchery of any 
kind. An improvement in manners would be an improvement 
in morals ; and it seems absurd to suppose an increase of vice 
with improved morals." 

Mr. James Mill, a friend of Mr. Place, writing also in 1820, 
(article " Colony," Encyclop. BriL) speaks of the question of 
checking population rationally as ** the most important prac- 
tical problem to which the wisdom of the politician and the 
moralist can be applied." '* If," he says, "the superstitions 
of the nursery were discarded, and the principles of utility 
kept steadily in view, a solution might not be difficult to be 
found, and the means of drying up one of the most copious 
sources of human evil — a source wliich, if all other sources of 
evil were taken away, would alone suffice to retain the great 
mass of human beings in misery, might be seen to be neither 
doubtful nor difficult to be applied," 

l\lr. Francis Place and Mr. James Mill exhibited in th^se 
utteiances one of the qualities of true men of science — that is, 
they were enabled to foretell truly what has takt-n place before 
the end of the century' in civilised countries like England and 
Fr;ince. The truth of their prophecies is shown in the fact 
tliat the inhabitants of France, who, at the commenccnieiit of 
this century, had a biith-rate of 33 children aniiuall_\ }t"r 1"00 
of inhabitants, have now one of 26 per 1000; wh le the West 


^iuA of London shows a still lower birth-rate than this — in 
Kensington of 20, in St. George, Hanover Square, of 19, and 
in Ilampstead Parish of 22 per 1000. In France, the low 
birth-rate is due, as every intelligent person now knows, to 
to Neo-Malthusian practices and not to celibacy, for Fiance 
contains, in every 1000 inhabitants, 140 married women be- 
tween the ages of fifteen and fifty, against 133 in this country 
and under 128 in Prussia. This prudence among the French 
population, since the time of the French Revolution, seems to 
have been due to a certain extent to the acquisition of landed 
property by the masses of the population, and also to the law 
of equal inheritance i a France, which prohibits parents from 
leaving their real or personal estates to one person. The ex- 
treme desire to keep the land in the hands of a few descend- 
ants has made the more respectable of the French peasants 
the most careful of Europeans. Thus we find, from an essay 
by the late Dr. Bertiilon, that in the thirty departments of 
France where there are the greatest number of proprietors of 
land, 285 per 1000 inhabitants, the birth-rate is only 24*7, 
against 28-1 in those departments where there are only 177 
proprietors per 1000 of the population. The professional 
classes in France are so thoughtful in regard to the number of 
children they bring into the world, that they do not have 
quite two children (1*75) to a family ; whilst the average 
children to a family in France does not exceed 3, against 5 in 
Germany, 4| in England, 5|- in Scotland, and 5^ in poor and 
distressed Ireland. How true it is, then, what James Mill 
and Mr. Francis Place predicted ! 

Universally we may say of modern Europeans, that the 
poorer classes are less prudent in the size of their families ; 
and, indeed, it has been said by M. de Haussonville ("La vie 
et les salaires a Paris ") that the number of children to a family 
in the poor quarters of Paris is three times as great as it is in 
the rich quarters. The same story holds nearly true in mod- 
ern London since 1877 — i.e., since the date of the trial of Mr. 
Charles Bradlaugh and Mrs. Annie Besant ; for the birth-rate 
in Kensington is at present 20 per 1000, against 40 per 1000 
in Bethnal Green, a result which is yearly becoming due rather 
to small families in the West End than to late marriages or 
celibacy, the old-fashioned causes of lower birth-rates. The 
celebrated cases of " Regina v. Bradlaugh and Besant," " Be- 
gina V. Edward Truelove," and, at this moment, of the Royal 
College of Physicians of Edinburgh against the esteemed and 
learned physician. Dr. H. A. Allbutt, of Leeds, who is threat- 


ened by that body with expulsion from the list of its members, 
because he has published, in a popular work of a practical 
character, what has been said so many times, that large fami- 
lies lead to early death, prostitution, and every horror to which 
mortality is subject, have disclosed the fact that there is an 
idea strongly implanted in the minds of the majority of man- 
kind, that, if people in general knew, especially at an early 
age, what any medical student knows as soon as he commences 
to study anatomy and physiology, vice and profligacy would 
immediately abound. This is, indeed, a strange idea. Civil- 
isation differs from savage life mainly in that civilised men 
know more of nature than savages ; but, just on that very ac- 
count, civilised people are more moral than savages. " It is 
impossible for us to understand," says M. Joseph Gamier, 
** how the counsels of marital prudence can lead to the aboli- 
tion of marriage and the debauchery of the young. Has not 
prudence the effect of rendering the state of marriage more 
happy and more attractive ? Youth is encouraged to marriage 
more easily by the example of prosperous and wisely managed 
households than by the example of households crushed under 
the tortures of misery." And M. Villerm^, one of the greatest 
writers on Health that this century has produced, mentions 
that the workmen of La Croix Rouge, Lyons, had, in his day, 
an average of only 3J children to a family ; and that " these 
workmen were the foremost in France for behavior and dig- 
nity of character.'-' " The question is," says a distinguished 
Vice-President of the Malthusian League, Mr. Van Houten, 
Deputy at the Hague, " whether morality can demand that a 
married couple shall have offspring immediately after their 
marriage ; that constantly, as soon as the mother, after giving 
birth to one, is able, a second one should at once succeed the 
first. The question is, whether those less blessed with worldly 
goods must restrain their desires and remain celibates, because 
they are unable, while following the traditional morality, to 
provide for a familj^ ? Or whether those whose inclination 
for one another, or whose trust in the future was too gieat when 
their expectations proved decei)tive, must be condemned, in 
the name of morality-, to procreate children who will be in- 
sufficiently fed, tended and educated, and can never become 
energetic citizens, or who, if sickly, are born only to descend 
speedily to the grave, to be succeeded by others equally un- 
fortunrite."' Mr. Van Houten truly sajs : " An end must be 
put to our ignorance of physiology. Everyone ought to knoivj 
and it must be left to his own requirements and to his own 
judgment what use he will make of his knowledge." 


How dacgerous such superstitions as those referred to by Mr. 
Van Houten are to the happiness of mankind is best seen in 
the old civilisations of Hindostan and China. Owing to cer- 
tain strange doctrines in those countries as to the importance 
©f children as a religious duty, the unfortunate Hindoo people 
are so terribly over-peopled that a man will work hard for 
wages equivalent to six shillings a month. The most learned 
of Italian medical writers on health, Senator Paulo Mantegazza, 
mentions that his work was placed on the Index by the Pope 
of Rome in 1863, because he had ventured to recommend to 
persons afflicted with hereditary disease, such as insanity or 
epilepsy, or to excessively poor people, to marry but to have 
as few children as possible. When two human beings (says 
that author) love each other, and yet from the bad health of 
one or both of them there is every likelihood that diseased 
children will result, is it a greater fault to engender epileptic, 
insane, or scrofulous children, or to prevent such births ? Or 
when, from the excessive increase of the family itself, human 
beings are brought into the world almost inexorably con- 
demned to hunger, to degradation, to disease, is it a greater 
sin to limit the number of children or to increase the sufferings 
of the human family ? " What reply ought we to give ? 
Whilst the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is dis- 
playing to the denizens of the end of the 19th century, an 
amount of ignorance and conventional bigotry which will be 
incredible to the next generation, it is remarkable that what 
is usually considered the most benighted Church in Christen- 
dom, the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church, has latterly 
shown evident signs of admitting thatNeo-Malthusian practices, 
which are so habitually made use of in France, must at least 
be acknowledged to be morally innocent. Thus, in 1870, the 
Vatican Council was implored by a French priest, Dr. Fried- 
rich, to reconsider its judgment on conjugal prudence : " and 
not to cause the damnation of so many millions of souls by 
letting the directors (confessors) lay upon their consciences, 
commands or prohibitions impossible to observe. It will be 
our duty (he exclaims) to search in the holy books alone 
for condemnation of the act in question ; if it be found to 
be forbidden neither by the decalogue nor by the other laws of 
God contained in Holy Writ, nor by the apostles, nor by the 
commands of the Church assembled in Council General, nor 
by the Pope speaking ex cathedra, we shall say it (conjugal 
prudence) cannot be condemned by anyone " Dr. Friedrich 
continues : " A learned and holy devotee of a very austere 

Order says : * I have studied this case with all the powers of 
ray intelligence and of my conscience, and I have corae to this 
formal conviction, that we are on the wrong track. To my 
mind, this act is enormously below the smallest mortal sin, 
and it is enormously lessened by all the motives that provoke 
it, real motives of health, even of interest, of family, &c.' '' 
Lastly, he informs us that Rome has enjoined on confessors to 
question very little and to dwell as little as possible upon this 
subject. Surely, afier this, the Royal College of Physicians of 
Edinburgh might hesitate ! What Rome has done, other 
churches might surely do ; and I am plea^^ed to say that many 
excellent members of the Englis;h Establishment are inclined 
to side with the Malthusian League in its earnest recommenda- 
tion to all classes of the community to replace the heartrending 
positive checks to population — war, pestilence, and famine — 
and the torturing agonies of prolonged celibacy, which Dr. 
Bertillon's statistics show to be so inimical even to longevity, 
by the far more humane and rational plan of early marriage 
conjoined with very much smaller families than are at the pre- 
sent time the fashion among all classes. Some check to popu- 
lation we must submit to ; and there is not the slightest doubt 
in my own mind that the morality of the near future will look 
upon the production of large families in European states as the 
most anti-social of all the actions of a citizen. Then, and not 
till then, will indigence disappear from the face of all civilised 

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